Learn About Low Blood Pressure

What is the definition of Low Blood Pressure?

Low blood pressure occurs when blood pressure is much lower than normal. This means the heart, brain, and other parts of the body do not get enough blood. Normal blood pressure is mostly between 90/60 mmHg and 120/80 mmHg.

The medical name for low blood pressure is hypotension.

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What are the alternative names for Low Blood Pressure?

Hypotension; Blood pressure - low; Postprandial hypotension; Orthostatic hypotension; Neurally mediated hypotension; NMH

What are the causes of Low Blood Pressure?

Blood pressure varies from one person to another. A drop as little as 20 mmHg, can cause problems for some people. There are different types and causes of low blood pressure.

Severe hypotension can be caused by sudden loss of blood (shock), severe infection, heart attack, or severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis).

Orthostatic hypotension is caused by a sudden change in body position. This occurs most often when you shift from lying down to standing. This type of low blood pressure usually lasts only a few seconds or minutes. If this type of low blood pressure occurs after eating, it is called postprandial orthostatic hypotension. This type most often affects older adults, those with high blood pressure, and people with Parkinson disease.

Neurally mediated hypotension (NMH) most often affects young adults and children. It can occur when a person has been standing for a long time. Children usually outgrow this type of hypotension.

Certain medicines and substances can lead to low blood pressure, including:

  • Alcohol
  • Anti-anxiety medicines
  • Certain antidepressants
  • Diuretics
  • Heart medicines, including those used to treat high blood pressure and coronary heart disease
  • Medicines used for surgery
  • Painkillers

Other causes of low blood pressure include:

  • Nerve damage from diabetes
  • Changes in heart rhythm (arrhythmias)
  • Not drinking enough fluids (dehydration)
  • Heart failure
What are the symptoms of Low Blood Pressure?

Symptoms of low blood pressure may include:

  • Blurry vision
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness
  • Fainting (syncope)
  • Lightheadedness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Sleepiness
  • Weakness
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What are the current treatments for Low Blood Pressure?

Lower than normal blood pressure in a healthy person that does not cause any symptoms often does not need treatment. Otherwise, treatment depends on the cause of your low blood pressure and your symptoms.

When you have symptoms from a drop in blood pressure, sit or lie down right away. Then raise your feet above heart level.

Severe hypotension caused by shock is a medical emergency. You may be given:

  • Blood through a needle (IV)
  • Medicines to increase blood pressure and improve heart strength
  • Other medicines, such as antibiotics

Treatments for low blood pressure after standing up too quickly include:

  • If medicines are the cause, your provider may change the dosage or switch you to a different drug. Do not stop taking any medicines before talking to your provider.
  • Your provider may suggest drinking more fluids to treat dehydration.
  • Wearing compression stockings can help keep blood from collecting in the legs. This keeps more blood in the upper body.

People with NMH should avoid triggers, such as standing for a long period of time. Other treatments include drinking fluids and increasing salt in your diet. Talk to your provider before trying these measures. In severe cases, medicines may be prescribed.

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What is the outlook (prognosis) for Low Blood Pressure?

Low blood pressure can usually be treated with success.

What are the possible complications of Low Blood Pressure?

Falls due to low blood pressure in older adults can lead to a broken hip or spine fracture. These injuries can reduce a person’s health and ability to move about.

Sudden severe drops in your blood pressure starves your body of oxygen. This can lead to damage of the heart, brain, and other organs. This type of low blood pressure can be life threatening if not treated right away.

When should I contact a medical professional for Low Blood Pressure?

If low blood pressure causes a person to pass out (become unconscious), seek treatment right away. Or call 911 or the local emergency number. If the person is not breathing or has no pulse, begin CPR.

Call your provider right away if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • Black or maroon stools
  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness, lightheadedness
  • Fainting
  • Fever higher than 101°F (38.3°C)
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath
How do I prevent Low Blood Pressure?

Your provider may recommend certain steps to prevent or reduce your symptoms including:

  • Drinking more fluids
  • Getting up slowly after sitting or lying down
  • Not drinking alcohol
  • Not standing for a long time (if you have NMH)
  • Using compression stockings so blood does not collect in the legs
Tracking your blood pressure at home
What are the latest Low Blood Pressure Clinical Trials?
Comparison in Frequency of Hypotension During Sedation of Propofol and Remimazolam in Spinal Anesthesia in Hip Surgery Patients: a Randomized Controlled Clinical Trial

Summary: The purpose of this study is to compare the incidence of hypotension between remimazolam and propofol for intraoperative sedation in patients undergoing hip surgery with spinal anesthesia.

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n-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids to Prevent and Treat Diabetic Neuropathy

Summary: Sensorimotor neuropathy (SMN) and cardiovascular autonomic neuropathy (CAN) are the most common complications of type 2 diabetes (T2D). SMN affects 30% of people with T2D and CAN 20%. SMN causes pain, impairs and limits physical activity, and increases the risk for physical disability, complications (such as foot ulcerations), and premature mortality. Moreover, both motor and sensory nerve functio...

What are the Latest Advances for Low Blood Pressure?
Midodrine and albumin as a possible "winning pair" in managing paracentesis-induced circulatory dysfunction: a clinical case report.
Sacubitril/valsartan reduces cardiac decompensation in heart failure with preserved ejection fraction: a meta-analysis.
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Safety and efficacy of propranolol for treatment of familial cerebral cavernous malformations (Treat_CCM): a randomised, open-label, blinded-endpoint, phase 2 pilot trial.
Who are the sources who wrote this article ?

Published Date: January 16, 2021
Published By: Linda J. Vorvick, MD, Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Family Medicine, UW Medicine, School of Medicine, University of Washington, Seattle, WA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

What are the references for this article ?

Calkins HG, Zipes DP. Hypotension and syncope. In: Zipes DP, Libby P, Bonow RO, Mann DL, Tomaselli GF, Braunwald E, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 43.

Schrigern DL. Approach to the patient with abnormal vital signs. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 7.