Ever Heard of White Coat Syndrome?

White coat syndrome? It’s a name that sounds like a joke, but it’s an actual condition many suffer from at the doctor’s office.

A relative of mine just recently learned she has white coat syndrome.

She’s been fortunate to have been healthy long enough that it had been a while — quite a number of years — since she’d needed to go to a doctor. (Yes, she certainly should have been going for routine checkups just as we all should. But that’s another story.)

In any case, after a recent bout with anxiety that included a severe panic attack, she found herself keeping an eye on her blood pressure.

A higher blood pressure reading is common during a panic attack. But her blood pressure typically is low. So low, in fact, that there probably isn’t anyone I know — including some very athletic folks — who wouldn’t love to have her blood pressure readings themselves!

But when she made a recent stop at an ER, it was high. When she later visited a doctor’s office, it was high again. They gave her blood pressure medicine to take, which none of us thought she truly needed.

Fortunately, her husband is a former EMT and started taking her blood pressure daily to record it. What they found was quite interesting: when she wasn’t at the doctor’s office, it was normal.

But set foot inside a medical facility and it shot through the roof.

It’s called White Coat Syndrome.

Berkeley Wellness describes it as a condition “caused by people being anxious at the doctor’s office, possibly over what their blood pressure reading will be.” For some people, knowing their blood pressure will be taken is enough to elevate it.

It’s also known as White Coat Hypertension, and for most sufferers, their blood pressure readings only seem to be high at their doctor’s office. According to the Mayo Clinic, some doctors think this could be a sign patients are at risk of developing high blood pressure in the future.

The doctor offered a solution to determine whether my relative needed high blood pressure. For two weeks, she was to have her blood pressure taken daily and record the readings. Every reading was legitimately low to normal. The day she returned for a follow-up with those readings, it was abnormally high.

That pretty much decided it. She’s to keep monitoring her blood pressure, but not take medication.

These days, my eye doctor wants to take my blood pressure. This is absurd to me: as much as they put me through at the eye doctor’s, that’s the worst place to take one’s blood pressure! A close second would be the dentist’s office.

Have you ever thought you might have White Coat Syndrome? How’s your blood pressure when you’re not in a doctor’s office?

1 Comment

  1. With the number of doctor visits I have – on average, seven to ten a month – if I had white coat syndrome, I’d be dead! I would have keeled over years ago from going to the ER too many times. So I think it is safe to say this is not likely to happen to me.

    I think it is ironic that you found the eye doctor visit more scary or trying than going to the dentist!

    I turned fifty in January, and in June I received a call from MdeiCare telling me I need to set up a wellness appointment with my primary doctor. I did, and then I was told I needed to get a mammogram and a colonoscopy. I laughed and commented that at least they’d given me six months to become used to these things. (Well, not the mammogram – I’m accustomed to those.)

    My mammogram was last Saturday and clear. My colonoscopy “meeting” is scheduled for August. I’m sure that will be fine, too. The preparations sound much more trying than the procedure itself.

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 27 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.