Diagnosed With High Blood Pressure? How Can You Keep Your DOT Medical Card?

If you've recently been diagnosed as having pre-hypertension or hypertension (more commonly known as high blood pressure), you may be concerned about your future, especially if you're currently the holder of a commercial driver's license (CDL).

Because CDL holders are required, through the federal Department of Transportation (DOT), to undergo some periodic medical testing in order to maintain DOT clearance, a chronic health condition like hypertension could pose a risk to your continued employment. Read on to learn more about how hypertension can impact your ability to be cleared to drive by the DOT, as well as how you can preserve your career after such a diagnosis. 

How do chronic conditions like hypertension impact your DOT medical clearance? 

Chronic health conditions like hypertension or diabetes aren't necessarily deadly on their own; however, these conditions can increase the risk of a wide variety of health-related dangers, from a sudden stroke or heart attack to congestive heart failure or neuropathy (nerve damage). Those who have been unable to lower their blood pressure through changes to their diet, additional exercise, or blood pressure-lowering medications may need some additional monitoring to ensure one of these dangerous medical events doesn't take place. 

This can present a problem when it comes time to renew your existing DOT medical card. While your risk of illness or injury as a newly hypertensive individual may not be quite as great as someone who has actually suffered a heart attack or stroke, your risk of both ailments is much higher than that of someone without hypertension, and the DOT may be cautious to extend your clearance if it fears you could suffer a medical event while behind the wheel of a multi-ton truck.

What can you do to maintain your employment after a hypertension diagnosis?

Although the DOT medical examiner's certificate is generally good for a period of 24 months, these certificates can be issued to expire much sooner whenever this is deemed necessary by the examiner. This means that you may be able to continue renewal of this certificate as you have in the past, simply on a shorter schedule as dictated by your area medical examiner and based on any changes observed in your health.

Although it may seem overly burdensome to return to the DOT for a medical examination every few months rather than every two years, doing so can preserve both your physical health and your job security.