Low Blood Pressure: Signs, Symptoms, and Complications

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Low blood pressure is when a person’s blood pressure reads lower than 90/60. More specifically, it means that the force of blood moving through the arteries is abnormally low. The medical term for low blood pressure is hypotension. The most common types of chronic or recurrent hypotension—orthostatic hypotension and neurally mediated hypotension—cause faintness, dizziness, and nausea, but they are triggered by different situations.

Severe hypotension can occur as a result of shock, a serious medical emergency. Without treatment, the effects of shock progressively get worse very fast, and can even be fatal.

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Frequent Symptoms

Hypotension often causes similar effects, regardless of the cause.

The most common symptoms are:

  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Tiredness
  • Weakness
  • Blurred vision
  • Confusion
  • Fainting or feeling faint

The timing and triggers of the symptoms can differ, depending on the type of hypotension.

  • With orthostatic hypotension, you’ll likely experience symptoms soon after you stand up if you’ve been sitting or lying down. And they’ll go away once you resume your previous sitting or lying down position for a couple of minutes. Physical exertion, standing for prolonged periods of time, and warm temperatures can worsen symptoms of orthostatic hypotension.
  • If you have postprandial hypotension, you will experience the symptoms right after eating.
  • With neurally mediated hypotension, the symptoms occur after standing for long periods of time.

Rare Symptoms

Orthostatic hypotension can sometimes cause neck and shoulder muscle pain and/or lower back pain.

Hypotension can also be a sign of shock, an acute medical condition that can occur due to severe illness or blood loss. When hypotension occurs due to shock, other symptoms of shock will occur as well.

Symptoms of severe hypotension linked to shock include:

  • Weak and rapid pulse
  • Pale or blue-ish skin
  • Cold and sweaty skin
  • Feeling warm and flush, and then later cold and sweaty. This happens when the shock is caused by a sudden and extreme relaxation of the blood vessels.
  • Rapid breathing
  • Feeling very sleepy
  • Losing consciousness

When blood pressure drops too low, the body’s tissues and cells don’t get enough oxygen and nutrients. If it’s not treated, vital organs, including the heart and brain, may be damaged.

Shock is a life-threatening condition. Those experiencing symptoms of shock must be treated immediately to prevent fatal outcomes.

Complications

Orthostatic hypotension can cause you to fall and may potentially lead to injuries.
It is also associated with the following conditions:

Orthostatic hypotension can be worsened by these conditions.

When to See a Healthcare Provider or Go to the Hospital

If you have symptoms of low blood pressure, you should discuss your concerns with your healthcare provider. Low blood pressure can be successfully treated. Treatment can include medication and lifestyle changes. Getting up slowly when you go from a sitting to a standing position, getting enough fluids, and avoiding excess heat can all help to reduce the frequency of hypotensive episodes.

If you notice the symptoms of shock in yourself or someone else, you should contact emergency services immediately.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • How does low blood pressure lead to shock?

    In most cases, low blood pressure doesn’t lead to shock—it is a sign of shock.

  • How is low blood pressure treated?

    Your treatment will depend on what’s causing low blood pressure and how severe it is. If you have severe low blood pressure, your healthcare provider may prescribe medication. For mild cases, your practitioner may suggest drinking more fluids to prevent dehydration and wearing compression stockings to improve your blood circulation.

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