What Are the Symptoms of High Blood Pressure Headaches?

Known as the silent killer, high blood pressure or hypertension generally has few noticeable symptoms of its own. According to the Mayo Clinic, early stage high blood pressure shows few symptoms but as hypertension increases over time and reaches advanced or life-threatening stages, one of the signs of chronic high blood pressure are headaches and related problems. The Merck Manual reports that over time high blood pressure can contribute to an enlarged heart and a compromised vascular system. If you suffer from chronic headaches or sudden onset of headaches seek medical attention. Headaches can be a sign of hypertension and other diseases.

Head Pain

Headaches are felt as pain and pressure throughout the head, face and neck and can be experienced as outward or inward pressing sensations. Feelings of heat in the head and sometimes hot flushes in the body can be felt during headaches as well as pressure in the sinus regions of the face. Some people describe the feelings as though their heads feel like they will explode.


High blood pressure headaches can include visual symptoms including seeing auras and other floater-like images due to pressure forming in the eye as well as pain in and behind the eyeballs. Swelling of the retina can be experienced with resulting blurred vision and light sensitivity.

Dizziness, Vertigo

Symptoms of lightheadedness, dizziness, vertigo and disorientation can be experienced along with hypertension headaches. Felt most often when rising from a sitting or lying position, patients suffering from these symptoms must be careful not to fall from being off balance.


Audio Sensations

Malignant high blood pressure headaches may be accompanied by the sound of the pulse hammering in the ears, rushing sounds and high pitched or buzzing sounds heard in the ears and felt in the head and throughout the body.

Concomitant Symptoms

Hypertensive headaches can have concomitant symptoms, which are those that appear at the same time and are related to the condition. The headaches can be accompanied by nose bleeds, facial flushing, irregular heartbeat felt in the chest and at pulse points. Nausea and vomiting can accompany headaches along with restlessness, shortness of breath and fatigue. Based on findings reported in The Merck Manual, "Occasionally, severe high blood pressure causes the brain to swell, resulting in nausea, vomiting, worsening headache, drowsiness, confusion, seizures, sleepiness, and even coma. This condition is called hypertensive encephalopathy."


Is This an Emergency?

If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911. If you think you may have COVID-19, use the CDC’s Coronavirus Self-Checker before leaving the house.