Many people suffering CRPS are additionally diagnosed with high blood pressure, which is also known as hypertension.
Why is this?
In some cases there may already be an underlying cause for the high blood pressure such as being overweight, smoking or simply family history. In those cases, it’s possible that suffering both CRPS and high blood pressure is a complete coincidence, but more likely the CRPS is serving as an exacerbating factor.
There are thought to be two ways that CRPS directly affects blood pressure.
First, it’s well known that pain causes stress to the body and one way that the body reacts to stress is to increase blood pressure. Indeed, any type of chronic pain can raise blood pressure. So, if a person’s CRPS has flared up, it’s likely that their blood pressure will also increase. During these times it’s possible that a person may suffer palpitations and rapid heartbeat.
Second, CRPS involves a specific part of the nervous system called the sympathetic nervous system. This is responsible for functions within the body such as regulating heart rate, sweating, body temperature and respiration, as well as blood pressure. Indeed, medication prescribed to treat high blood pressure may also affect other areas of the sympathetic nervous system. In this way, blood pressure medication has been known to have an effect on the symptoms of CRPS.
Of course, inactivity resulting from chronic pain can cause weight gain, which in itself raises the risk of developing high blood pressure.
The danger of high blood pressure
High blood pressure, particularly over a prolonged period, puts strain on your heart and blood vessels and increases your risk of a number of potentially life-threatening conditions, including heart attack and stroke. It can also affect other organs of the body such as your kidneys, eyes and brain. In the case of your brain, it can eventually lead to vascular dementia.
Blood pressure medication
There are a host of different groups of blood pressure medications, each group achieving a reduction in blood pressure in a different way. For example, Diuretics help to flush extra fluid and salt from the body to lower blood pressure while Beta Blockers slow down the heartbeat. ACE inhibitors restrict the body’s production of a hormone called Angiotensin II, which causes blood vessels to narrow.
It’s fairly common to find that somebody suffering high blood pressure is taking medication from more than one group.
Increased risk of developing CRPS
From a different perspective, a very interesting Dutch study published in 2008 found that the use of ACE inhibitors was actually associated with an increased risk of developing CRPS. The risk was higher if ACE inhibitors were used for a long time and in higher dosages. However, the same study also found that there was no correlation between the other classes of blood pressure medication and CRPS.
What can be done?
It is important that all of us undergo regular blood pressure monitoring, but this is particularly so if you suffer with CRPS. Those already on blood pressure medication will undergo regular reviews with their doctor. This is to ensure that their blood pressure remains stable and, if necessary, to alter the type, combination or dosage of their medication.
Home blood pressure monitors are now widely available and relatively inexpensive. Most people on blood pressure medication will have one in order to self-monitor their condition.