Causes Of Sudden High Blood Pressure (Spikes)

causes of sudden high blood pressure

I always knew there were some common causes of sudden high blood pressure and thought I knew them all. But one day I heard of one that completely surprised me and it lead me to conduct more research on the topic. This blog post will reveal to you exactly what I discovered (resource).

What are causes of sudden high blood pressure? Causes of sudden high blood pressure include the following:

  • Chronic Kidney Disease
  • Thyroid Issues
  • Overactive Adrenal Glands
  • Certain Medications
  • Food and Drink
  • Pregnancy Related High Blood Pressure
  • Scleroderma
  • White Coat Hypertension
  • Stress and Anxiety
  • Illegal drugs
  • Smoking

Unfortunately, many causes of sudden high blood pressure are more than just a temporary spike. Many of them cause long-term high blood pressure and lead to more severe health issues. Knowing what causes sudden high blood pressure is a must know for anyone, especially for those that are struggling with blood pressure already!

Chronic Kidney Disease

High blood pressure is both an important cause and consequence of chronic kidney disease.This means that if you have high blood pressure, then you are more likely to have kidney disease. Likewise, if you have kidney disease, this can sometimes cause sudden high blood pressure (resource). The following are 2 examples:

Polycystic kidney disease. In this inherited condition, cysts in your kidneys prevent the kidneys from working correctly and can raise blood pressure.

Glomerular disease. Your kidneys filter waste and sodium using microscopic-sized filters called glomeruli that can sometimes become swollen. If the swollen glomeruli can’t work normally, you may develop high blood pressure.

high blood pressure spikes

Thyroid Issues

If you have or know of someone with a thyroid problem, just the stress of trying to keep it regulated can raise blood pressure. When the thyroid gland produces too much thyroid hormone, hyperthyroidism, or when it doesn’t produce enough hormone (hypothyroidism), high blood pressure can result.

The parathyroid glands regulate levels of calcium and phosphorus in your body. If the glands secrete too much parathyroid hormone, the amount of calcium in your blood rises, which triggers a sudden rise in blood pressure.

Numerous studies (resource) have shown increased blood pressure associated with hypothyroidism. The main reason is the constriction of blood vessels and stiffness. Another reason is obesity because hypothyroid people are typically more overweight than those with a normal thyroid.

Overactive Adrenal Glands

Did you know that up to 10% of people with high blood pressure have an unrecognized adrenal gland disorder? (resource) When adrenal glands produce excessive amounts of certain hormones, they are called overactive. One of these hormones, aldosterone, helps the kidneys manage water, sodium and potassium. Too much aldosterone can cause the kidneys to retain sodium and water while flushing potassium. This imbalance of potassium and sodium with increased fluid will cause sudden high blood pressure.

Certain Medications

It may be no surprise to you that some medications come with side effects. Have you ever read that extremely long list that the pharmacy attaches to your receipt? And it’s not just prescription medicines, some over-the-counter medications can cause sudden high blood pressure. Plus, some medications can interfere with other medications that are intended to lower blood pressure. The following are some medications that can spike blood pressure (resource):

  • Medications That Contain Caffeine: There are many over-the-counter and prescription drugs that contain caffeine. While there isn’t enough evidence to prove that caffeine raises long term blood pressure, it can cause a temporary spike.
  • Pain medications: Certain pain and anti-inflammatory medications can cause you to retain fluid which can cause kidney problems raising your blood pressure.
  • Antidepressants: They work by changing your body’s response to brain chemicals. These chemicals can cause an increase in your blood pressure.
  • Cold Medicine: Decongestants narrow your blood vessels which can cause an increase in blood pressure. Plus, some decongestants can make blood pressure medication less effective.
  • Immunosuppressants: They are usually given to people who’s had organ transplants. Some of them can raise your blood raise your blood pressure because of the ways they affect your kidneys.
  • Stimulants: Stimulants can cause your heart to beat falser raising your blood pressure.
  • Birth Control Pills: Birth control pills and hormonal birth control devices contain hormones that may narrow your blood vessels causing a sudden raise in blood pressure.
  • Biological Therapies: Some of these drugs target specific cells, and some use your body’s own immune system to fight autoimmune diseases and cancers. Angiogenesis inhibitors in particular and some monoclonal antibodies can cause a spike in blood pressure.
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Food And Drink

Certain foods can cause sudden increases in blood pressure especially ones that have tyramine. Have you ever heard of tyramine? Tyramine (resource) is an amino acid that helps regulate blood pressure. A large dietary intake of tyramine can cause the tyramine pressor response, defined as an increase in systolic blood pressure of 30 mm Hg or more. This is especially dangerous if you’re taking Monoamine oxidase inhibitors. Foods high in Tyramine can include:

  • Aged Cheeses
  • Cured Meat
  • Processed Meats
  • Pickled or Fermented Foods
  • Alcoholic Beverages

As much as I love coffee, certain drinks like caffeine (which also contains tyramine) and alcohol can cause sudden high blood pressure.

Pregnancy Related High Blood Pressure

Like pregnancy doesn’t have enough issues that cause discomfort, in some cases, high blood pressure may occur (resource). There are several types of high blood pressure disorders in pregnancy like preeclampsia, premature birth, low birthweight and placental abruption. The following are possible causes of sudden high blood pressure during pregnancy:

  • Diabetes
  • Kidney Disease
  • Lupus
  • In vitro fertilization
  • Age
  • Carrying more than one child
  • Obesity


Scleroderma is an autoimmune, rheumatic chronic disease that affects the body by hardening connective tissue. People with scleroderma are at an increased risk for developing pulmonary hypertension, high blood pressure in the blood vessels of the lungs (resource). Some scleroderma patients have significant scarring of their lungs. This reduces the blood oxygen level which may cause a reflex increase in blood pressure in the pulmonary arteries.

sudden high blood pressure

White Coat Hypertension

If you’re like me, I’ve experienced nervousness at the doctor office especially when the nurse is wrapping that blood pressure cuff around my arm. There were times when I was totally calm until the cuff started to inflate because I wanted a low blood pressure reading and got nervous about it. White coat hypertension is when blood pressure is elevated in the doctor’s office but not in other settings.

This is one of the reasons why the American Heart Association recommends home monitoring of blood pressure. If you’ve been thinking about buying a home blood pressure monitor, you can check out my recommendation in this same website right here.

And if that spike in blood pressure isn’t enough to stress you out check out what I found in my research. A study published in the journal Hypertension (study) found that people with white coat hypertension are at a significantly greater risk for developing sustained high blood pressure than people who have normal blood pressure. One possible explanation is that people with white coat hypertension have a harder time managing stress and anxiety. This leads me to the next topic that can cause sudden high blood pressure.

Stress And Anxiety

In addition to the doctor’s office, feeling stress or anxiety over anything can cause your blood pressure to go up. When this happens, your body sends stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol into the bloodstream. They create a temporary spike in blood pressure, causing your heart blood vessels to narrow and your heart to beat faster. When the stressful situation is over, blood pressure goes back to its normal level (resource).

Stress can also lead to bad habits that are not good for your blood pressure over the long run. For instance, overeating, smoking and drinking alcohol in response to stressful situations are direct causes of sustained high blood pressure. Plus, these bad habits cause more temporary spikes in your blood pressure. Another one of these habits are my next topic.

Illegal Drugs

Many illegal drugs cause sudden high blood pressure because they narrow your arteries and increase your heart rate. Five examples of illegal drugs that can affect your heart are (resource):

  1. Cocaine
  2. Anabolic Steroids
  3. Amphetamines
  4. Lysergic acid diethyl amide or LSD
  5. Ecstasy

sudden causes of high blood pressure spikes


Growing up I was lucky not to be around a lot of smokers which may have helped me avoid starting this habit. Every time someone smokes, it causes a temporary spike in blood pressure (resource). The Nicotine raises your heart rate and narrows your blood vessels.

Possible Consequences Of Sudden High Blood Pressure

I hope this doesn’t happen to you, but there are times when your blood pressure can suddenly get high enough where it can result in serious health issues. If you take your blood pressure and either number is higher than 180/120, after 5 minutes take a 2nd reading, if it’s just as high and you ARE experiencing one of the following symptoms.…CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY (resource):

  • Chest Pain
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Back Pain
  • Numbness/Weakness
  • Difficulty Breathing
  • Change In Vision

The following are the consequences you may experience from uncontrolled blood pressure that’s over 180 or 120 with the above symptoms:

  • Stroke: A sudden interruption in the blood supply of the brain.
  • Loss of Consciousness.
  • Memory Loss.
  • Heart Attack: When the blood flow to part of the heart is blocked.
  • Damage To The Eyes & Kidneys.
  • Loss Of Kidney Function.
  • Aortic Dissection: This is when there is a tear in the wall of your major artery, aorta, carrying blood out of the heart. This can lead to aortic rupture or decreased blood flow to your organs.
  • Angina: It’s a severe pain in the chest that is caused by reduced blood flow to the heart. The pain can also spread to the shoulders, arms and neck.
  • Pulmonary Edema: It is fluid accumulation in the tissue and air spaces of the lungs. It can lead to fatal respiratory distress or cardiac arrest.
  • Eclampsia: A condition that causes a pregnant woman to develop seizures or a coma.

The above example of a sudden rise in high blood pressure is called a hypertensive crisis. A hypertensive crisis is the most serious blood pressure category there is. I wrote about hypertensive crisis in complete detail in another post in this same website right here.

Related Questions

When should you go to the ER with high blood pressure? If you measure your blood pressure and either number is higher than 180/120, wait 5 minutes and take it again. If the reading is just as high and you are experiencing any of the following call 911:

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness Of Breath
  • Back pain
  • Numbness or Weakness
  • Change In Vision
  • Difficulty Breathing

What are the most common high blood pressure medications? The following is a list of the most common high blood pressure medications that a doctor may recommend:

Kevin Garce

Kevin Garce is a Certified Health Coach who encourages people by informing them on blood pressure topics important to them. His years of research and knowledge inspire people to achieve their goals. Read more here About Me

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