Pressure all the way: White Coat Hypertension

Sunday, 25 October 2020


Pressure all the way: White Coat Hypertension

Harshita Himatsingka | June 01, 2019 16:13 hrs

Has it ever happened to you? You’re feeling fine throughout the day, but then you have to visit the doctor for a consultation and all of a sudden you’re anxious? Don’t worry; you’re not the only one as there is a legitimate medical reason that defines this condition: white coat hypertension or white coat syndrome. The term for the same was coined by Thomas Pickering. 

It is a syndrome wherein people exhibit a blood pressure level above the normal range in a clinical setting, although their blood pressure levels read fine in other normal settings. This phenomenon occurs due to anxiety that one faces during a visit to the doctor. 

According to reports in a medical journal, a patient’s daytime ambulatory blood pressure (which is defined as less than 130/80 mm Hg) is used as reference as it measures ordinary levels of daily stress. 

In an interesting turn of events, similar to this condition, there is another condition called “masked hypertension” where a patient’s blood pressure is above the normal range during daily living but shows in the normal range when visiting a doctor or physician. 

“At first, neither I nor my family doctor knew that I was suffering from white coat hypertension. I had been to a number of doctors since then and every time, my blood pressure would be soaring high. However, when asked about symptoms in regard to high blood pressure, I had none of them. Then recently, a senior doctor told me about this condition. Following that, he checked my blood pressure three times and it was normal, usually during the third try. I was also made to monitor my blood pressure for a day, which revealed normal pressure,” said a resident from Guwahati. 

Defining Hypertension

Hypertension or high blood pressure is a condition when the force of blood against the walls of the arteries in the body is higher than the normal rush, according to a report by Medical News Today.
Based on the report, normal blood pressure levels can be found to be 120/80 millimetres of mercury (mmHg). For a person to have hypertension, they would have to have a blood pressure reading of 140/90 mmHg or more.
Some doctors believe that white coat hypertension syndrome is a precursor to actual hypertension that is present in individuals with this condition. People affected by this are more likely to suffer from illnesses and diseases caused by blood pressure and also suffer from cardiovascular issues. 

“A lot of people, even some young adults, suffer from hypertension or high blood pressure because of the lifestyle people generally follow today. Our lifestyle has become so sedentary, we barely move and our eating habits have also been affected, again in turn because of our busy lifestyles. White coat hypertension occurs mainly because of anxiety or nervousness when visiting a doctor,” said a respected city doctor in Guwahati. 


Given the tricky nature of this syndrome, treating it can be difficult most times since it’s difficult for doctors to get an accurate reading of blood pressure to determine if someone has hypertension, according to the report by Medical News Today. 

To diagnose and treat this symptom, doctors have to take multiple readings of an individual’s blood pressure. The patients may have to measure their blood pressure everyday using a home blood pressure monitor or an ambulatory blood pressure monitor (a device that is worn for a day or two) as proper diagnosis in such cases is crucial. 

After ascertaining the syndrome, doctors might prescribe medicines to treat high blood pressure symptoms. However, if prescribed medicines after being misdiagnosed, it could lead to a host of problems such as hypotension, which is caused when a person’s blood pressure drops below the normal range, which, by itself, is a dangerous condition to have. 


Like it’s always said, prevention is better than cure. Thus, managing symptoms will go a long way since suffering from high blood pressure or hypertension is not equivalent to living a healthy lifestyle. 

One can try and practice some relaxation techniques, like breathing exercises or meditation, that may help people calm down before going to the doctor’s office. They may ask to be moved to a quieter room or place as the doctor’s office can be an intimidating place to be in. 

Thus, it can be important to manage white coat hypertension as the main complication related to this condition is hypertension itself, which causes a host of different illnesses and diseases.
“I am so glad that this condition was identified so that now I can take the required precautions as my family and I were all panicking, which certainly did not help the condition. Since it is a common phenomenon, but not a commonly known syndrome, it is important for people to be aware about it,” said the Guwahatian. 

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