Low blood pressure is known in the medical field by its technical name, hypotension. Blood pressure is the pressure created when the blood flows through your veins and arteries, and it can vary widely between people. If it drops low enough, you may experience distinct symptoms and be at risk for health problems.
What causes hypotension? How serious is it, and can it ever become life-threatening or lethal? How do you assist someone suffering from hypotension?
Firstly, let’s define hypotension and its impact on people.
What is Hypotension?
Your body’s blood is always under pressure. This might sound like a troubling notion (“What if I spring a leak??”), but it’s actually beneficial. Blood is a liquid, so it tends to flow to the lowest point. When your heart pumps blood, it flows to the areas that need it the most, such as your brain, rather than dripping into your feet.
Water pressure is like the water in your house in that it helps the water flow through the pipes and out of your faucets, doing some good. If there isn’t enough pressure, no water will come out when you turn on the tap.
Your blood changes pressure constantly as your heart beats and pushes blood through the system. When your heart sends blood through your arteries, the blood is at its highest pressure; between heartbeats, the pressure is at its lowest.
Doctors usually refer to two figures when measuring someone’s heart rate: the highest (systolic) and lowest (diastolic) blood pressures measured in millimetres of mercury (mmHg). The normal human blood pressure range is 120 over 80 mmHg.
Blood pressure is never completely regular, so having a lower than average blood pressure is not necessarily significant. However, if your blood pressure is too low, blood might not reach where it’s needed, resulting in problems. This condition, called hypotension or low blood pressure, occurs when your blood pressure is 90 over 60 or lower. If either of your numbers is that low or lower, you have hypotension.
Although it is not a critical medical condition, low blood pressure is something that should be monitored. Stroke and heart failure are two of the most significant risks associated with high blood pressure (or hypertension), which is considered preferable to low blood pressure. Only if your blood pressure drops excessively low is there real danger.
What is the Main Cause of Hypotension?
IT is difficult to identify the main reason behind hypotension since there are so many contributing factors. Some of the most common ones include:
- Overheating in the body
- Internal bleeding
- Dehydration, which lowers blood volume
- Some medications, including certain heart medications and antidepressants
- Emotional stress
- Anaphylactic shock
- Medical conditions including Parkinson’s, heart disease, thyroid disease, or diabetes
- Donating blood
- Lack of dietary nutrients
- Some kinds of infection
- Blood loss from injury
- Some allergic reactions
What are the Symptoms of Hypotension?
Various symptoms of hypotension exist, but some are more common than others. The following are among the most frequent:
- Blurry vision
- Difficulty concentrating
- Feeling fatigued
- Feeling like you’re going to faint
- Losing consciousness
- Clammy skin
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Nausea or discomfort in the stomach
These symptoms may occur at any time, but they are more likely to occur when changing positions or performing a physically demanding task (like pushing too hard on the toilet). This is because when you suffer from low blood pressure, actions like these can disrupt the flow of blood to the brain and other organs.
When Is Low Blood Pressure an Emergency?
There is no need to call 000 if you are experiencing symptoms such as dizziness when standing up, as low blood pressure on its own is not an emergency. However, if you are experiencing such symptoms regularly, it is best to see a doctor as soon as possible.
Hypotension does not require immediate medical attention unless the person’s blood pressure has fallen enough that they are going into shock, which means the brain may be suffering from an insufficient supply of oxygen. This often occurs because of an additional medical condition, such as blood loss from an injury or Anaphylaxis (a severe allergic reaction). Symptoms of shock can include anxiety, difficulty breathing, disorientation, confusion, dry mouth, an irregular heartbeat, and vomiting.
Call 000 immediately when someone is showing signs of shock.
How is Hypotension Treated?
Usually, regular hypotension does not require immediate treatment—you should speak with a physician to see if you can do anything to improve your blood pressure, what symptoms to look out for, and what activities you should avoid. The treatment they propose will usually take into account the kind of hypotension you have, the things that seem to have caused it, and your own health status.
An individual showing signs of shock must be medically treated. If an ambulance has been called, keep the victim comfortable by laying them down and keeping them warm. It is important to loosen constricting garments and, if possible, raise the patient’s feet above their head to facilitate blood flow from the legs to the brain. Assure them that help is on the way, and stay with them until it arrives, but do not let them move around or consume anything—not even if they are hungry.
It is important to understand that the above advice is only a general set of guidelines, but is no substitute for professional first aid training, and you usually don’t have to venture far to find it – these days, there are courses operating everywhere from Port Au Prince to Port Adelaide. To be truly prepared to assist someone experiencing shock, or any other medical problem for that matter, taking an accredited first aid course is one of the best ways to invest your time.