The endothelium modulates the tone of the underlying vascular smooth muscle by releasing relaxing factors, including prostacyclin, nitric oxide (NO), and endothelium-derived hyperpolarizing factor (EDHF). In most types of hypertension, endothelium-dependent relaxations are impaired because of a reduced production and/or action of endothelium-derived NO and EDHF. In essential hypertension, endothelium-dependent relaxations are reduced because of a concomitant release of vasoconstrictor prostanoids (endoperoxides and thromboxane A2). These prostanoids may be produced in the vascular smooth muscle rather than in the endothelium. The endothelial dysfunction observed in hypertension is likely to be a consequence rather than a cause of the disease, representing premature aging of the blood vessels due to the chronic exposure to the high blood pressure. The endothelial dysfunction can be improved by antihypertensive therapy, favoring the prevention of the occurrence of vascular complications in hypertension.