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.