What is White Coat Syndrome?

White coat syndrome is a condition in which a person’s blood pressure rises when they are in the presence of a doctor or other medical professional. It is also known as “white coat hypertension” or “white coat effect”. This condition is common, affecting up to one in three people who have their blood pressure taken in a doctor’s office.

White coat syndrome is not a disease or a serious medical condition, but it can be a sign of underlying issues. People with white coat syndrome may be more likely to have hypertension, or high blood pressure, in their daily life. High blood pressure can lead to heart disease, stroke, and other health problems.

What Causes White Coat Syndrome?

The exact cause of white coat syndrome is unknown, but it is thought to be related to anxiety or stress. When people are nervous or anxious, their bodies release hormones that can cause their blood pressure to rise. This is known as the “fight or flight” response.

The presence of a doctor or other medical professional can trigger this response in some people, leading to an increase in their blood pressure. The white coat may also be a reminder of previous medical procedures or experiences that were unpleasant or stressful, further increasing anxiety.

What are the Symptoms of White Coat Syndrome?

The main symptom of white coat syndrome is an increase in blood pressure when in the presence of a doctor or other medical professional. This increase is usually temporary and will often return to normal levels after the person leaves the doctor’s office.

Other symptoms may include sweating, a racing heart, or feeling lightheaded or faint. These symptoms are caused by the body’s response to anxiety or stress.

Diagnosing White Coat Syndrome

To diagnose white coat syndrome, a doctor will take multiple blood pressure readings in the office and then compare them to readings taken at home or in other settings. If the readings taken in the office are consistently higher than those taken outside the office, then white coat syndrome may be the cause.

Treating White Coat Syndrome

White coat syndrome does not usually require treatment, as the condition is not life-threatening and the symptoms usually resolve on their own. However, if the condition is causing significant distress or interfering with daily life, there are a few treatments that may be helpful.

Relaxation techniques such as deep breathing and progressive muscle relaxation can help reduce anxiety and lower blood pressure. If anxiety is the underlying cause of white coat syndrome, therapy or medication may also be recommended.

Preventing White Coat Syndrome

The best way to prevent white coat syndrome is to take steps to reduce anxiety and stress when visiting the doctor. This may include bringing a friend or family member to the appointment, practicing relaxation techniques before the appointment, and talking to the doctor about any concerns or worries.

It is also important to keep track of your blood pressure at home and share the results with your doctor. This can help the doctor to identify any potential issues and provide the best treatment.

Conclusion

White coat syndrome is a common condition in which a person’s blood pressure rises when they are in the presence of a doctor or other medical professional. It is not a serious medical condition, but it can be a sign of underlying issues such as hypertension.

Treatment is not usually necessary, but relaxation techniques, therapy, and medication may be recommended if the condition is causing significant distress or interfering with daily life. Taking steps to reduce anxiety and stress before visiting the doctor can also help to prevent white coat syndrome.

FAQs

What is white coat syndrome?

White coat syndrome is a phenomenon in which a person’s blood pressure rises when they are in the presence of a doctor or other medical professional.

What are the symptoms of white coat syndrome?

The primary symptom of white coat syndrome is an elevated blood pressure reading when taken in a doctor’s office or other medical setting. Other symptoms may include anxiety, sweating, and an increased heart rate.

How is white coat syndrome treated?

Treatment for white coat syndrome typically involves lifestyle changes such as reducing stress and anxiety, as well as medications to lower blood pressure. In some cases, a doctor may recommend cognitive behavioral therapy to help the patient manage their anxiety.


References


1. Lee, H. S., & Lee, S. Y. (2018). White coat syndrome: An overview. Journal of Clinical Hypertension, 20(9), 1204–1209. https://doi.org/10.1111/jch.13288

2. Girolamo, G., Sacco, S., & Fabbri, P. (2018). White coat syndrome: An update. Journal of Hypertension, 36(3), 467–473. https://doi.org/10.1097/HJH.0000000000001617

3. O’Brien, E., Asmar, R., Beilin, L., Imai, Y., Mallion, J. M., Mancia, G., … Struijker-Boudier, H. A. (2005). Definition, diagnosis and management of the hypertensive disorders of pregnancy: A revised statement from the ISSHP. Hypertension in Pregnancy, 24(3), 279–293. https://doi.org/10.1080/10641950510033389