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Low blood pressure, also called hypotension, would seem to be something to strive for. However, for many people, low blood pressure can cause symptoms of dizziness and fainting or mean that they have serious heart, endocrine or neurological disorders. Severely low blood pressure can deprive the brain and other vital organs of oxygen and nutrients, leading to a life-threatening condition called shock. Although blood pressure varies from person to person, a blood pressure reading of 90 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg) or less systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading) or 60 mm Hg or less diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) is generally considered low blood pressure. The causes of low blood pressure can range from dehydration to problems with the way your brain signals your heart to pump blood. Low blood pressure is treatable, but it's important to find out what's causing your condition so that it can be properly treated.
Alternative Names of Hypotension are: Low Blood Pressure.
Complications of Hypotension
Even moderate forms of low blood pressure can cause not only dizziness and weakness but also fainting and a risk of injury from falls. And severely low blood pressure from any cause can deprive your body of enough oxygen to carry out its normal functions, leading to damage to your heart and brain.
Causes of Hypotension
Conditions that can cause low blood pressure
Some medical conditions can cause low blood pressure. These include:
Far more serious is hypovolemic shock, a life-threatening complication of dehydration. It occurs when low blood volume causes a sudden drop in blood pressure and a reduction in the amount of oxygen reaching your tissues. If untreated, severe hypovolemic shock can cause death within a few minutes or hours.
Medications that can cause low blood pressure
Some medications you may take can also cause low blood pressure, including:
Signs & Symptoms of Hypotension
For some people, low blood pressure can signal an underlying problem, especially when it drops suddenly or is accompanied by signs and symptoms such as:
Diagnosis of Hypotension
The goal in testing for low blood pressure is to find the underlying cause. This helps determine the correct treatment and identify any heart, brain or nervous system problems that may cause lower than normal readings. To reach a diagnosis, your doctor may recommend one or more of the following tests:
Sometimes, heart rhythm abnormalities come and go, and an ECG won't find any problems. If this happens, you may be asked to wear a 24-hour Holter monitor to record your heart's electrical activity as you go about your daily routine.
Treatments of Hypotension
Low blood pressure that either doesn't cause signs or symptoms, or causes only mild symptoms, such as brief episodes of dizziness when standing, rarely requires treatment. If you have symptoms, the best treatment depends on the underlying cause, and doctors usually try to address the primary health problem — dehydration, heart failure, diabetes or hypothyroidism, for example — rather than the low blood pressure itself. When low blood pressure is caused by medications, treatment usually involves changing the dose of the medication or stopping it entirely.
If it's not clear what's causing low blood pressure or no effective treatment exists, the goal is to raise your blood pressure and reduce signs and symptoms. Depending on your age, health status and the type of low blood pressure you have, you can do this in several ways:
When to seek Medical Advice
In many instances, low blood pressure isn't serious. If you have consistently low readings but feel fine, your doctor is likely to monitor you during routine exams. Even occasional dizziness or lightheadedness may be a relatively minor problem — the result of mild dehydration from too much time in the sun or a hot tub, for example. In these situations, it's not a matter so much of how far, but of how quickly, your blood pressure drops. Still, it's important to see your doctor if you experience any signs or symptoms of hypotension because they sometimes can point to more serious problems. It can be helpful to keep a record of your symptoms, when they occur and what you were doing at the time.
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