We've all been there at the doctor's. He decides to take your blood pressure, and you become nervous about what he will find.
White coat hypertension is the increase in blood pressure experienced by many people, especially women² when being tested at the local clinic. Often, the cause is either a basic fear of doctors, or more commonly a fear of the possible findings of the test. The syndrome is named after the white coats traditionally worn by medical staff.
Most doctors will take a second reading at the end of the session if the first is a little high. Hopefully by that time, the patient will have calmed down a little, assuming they haven't been given any alarming news.
Ambulatory monitoring can be used in difficult cases. This involves a wearable device, which will monitor the pressure every few minutes. Some of these results will therefore be taken when the patient is relaxed, or even asleep. The log of results may be taken, and the lower values used as an accurate indication. A consistently high ambulatory reading is a sure sign that there's a more serious problem requiring treatment.
2.Carels RA, et al. High anxiety and white coat hypertension. JAMA. 1998;279:197-198.