Low Blood Pressure - Symptoms
Symptoms of Low Blood Pressure
Low blood pressure, medically known as hypotension, is blood pressure where the systolic reading drops below 100mmHg and the diastolic bellow 65mmHg. Blood pressure is the force that blood exerts on the walls of blood vessels. Maintaining blood pressure within the normal range is essential for proper organ function. Blood pressure level depends on the amount of blood flowing through the vessels as well as the resistance that the vessels exert on the flowing blood. Low blood pressure often appears physiologically in younger individuals, mainly girls.
Causes of Low Blood Pressure
The causes of low blood pressure are essentially twofold. The cause can be found in the failure of cardiac output, when the heart is unable to pump a sufficient amount of blood into the body for various reasons. This can occur following myocardial infarction, valve defects or arrhythmia for example. The second cause of low blood pressure may be a vascular disorder in which blood vessels are not able to regulate blood flow. This can occur due to inadequate fluid intake, or a long period of standing. Orthostatic hypotension also exists, which appears following a change in position, such as when sitting up from a horizontal position. When standing up, blood travels to the lower half of the body due to gravity. This blood is then "missing" in the upper half, including the brain. Under normal circumstances, nerve signals react to this and constrict the blood vessels in the brain. This increases blood pressure and compensates for the change. However, there are illnesses where these processes are disturbed. These are diseases of the nervous system such as multiple sclerosis, or diabetes. Other causes of low blood pressure can include certain medications such as blood pressure lowering medications, medications for depression or for epilepsy.
Manifestations of Low Blood Pressure
Low blood pressure, or hypotension, results in insufficient blood supply to organs. Manifestations mainly stem from insufficient blood flow to the brain, such as fatigue, drowsiness, seeing flashing lights, or dizziness. Other symptoms include overall weakness and cold hands and feet. A rapid drop in blood pressure can cause loss of consciousness. This can be short term, (syncopic), or in more severe cases long-term, accompanied by spasms. The most severe form of hypotension manifestation is shock. This is the rapid drop in blood pressure in the whole body, leading to the collapse of the whole circulatory system. This state is life-threatening and requires immediate hospitalization. It can be caused by a heart condition, major bleeding, infection, allergic reaction or pulmonary embolism.
Complications of Low Blood Pressure
As mentioned above, low blood pressure can lead to insufficient blood supply to organs. The brain in particular is very sensitive to this condition as it does not receive enough oxygen and can lead to a loss of consciousness. These often lead to falls of varying severity, accidents and injuries. With untreated low blood pressure, organs gradually begin to fail, mainly the kidneys, heart and brain.
Diagnosing Low Blood Pressure
Low blood pressure is diagnosed after subsequent blood pressure measurements with the help of a sphygmomanometer. Clinical symptoms are not conclusive for this condition as they can appear with number of other illnesses as well. These are so-called non-specific symptoms. For the diagnosis of low blood pressure, blood pressure levels need to be measured repeatedly; therefore it is most often detected by a physician during a regular physical examination.
Treating Low Blood Pressure
Low blood pressure is treated only when it causes health problems. Treatment methods of low blood pressure are classified as conservative and pharmacological treatment.
- Conservative treatment for low blood pressure is based on lifestyle adjustments. Adequate fluid intake, a slightly higher salt intake and the consumption of coffee or tea are recommended. Wearing elastic compression stocking are also recommended as they help the return of blood from the legs to the heart.
- Pharmacological treatment for low blood pressure is based on the administration of medications which influence the walls of the blood vessels and cause them to constrict, increasing blood pressure. It is important to address the fundamental cause of the low blood pressure and treat it, as the treatment of low blood pressure alone would be ineffective.