Hypotension: Why low blood pressure should not be taken lightly

Hypotension, also known as low blood pressure, is not as well-known and does not afflict as many people...

Hypotension, also known as low blood pressure, is not as well-known and does not afflict as many people as hypertension--or high blood pressure. However, like its blood pressure twin, it poses health risks, which can range in severity from mild to life-threatening. There are many causes of low blood pressure and some people are more susceptible to this medical condition than others. Discover the causes and symptoms of low blood pressure and learn when you need to consult a physician.

What is it?

Hypotension occurs when the body's blood pressure is lower than normal. In mild cases, there are no negative reactions and no need for treatment. However, in moderate to severe cases, the brain, heart and other organs do not receive enough blood, and depending on the duration of the episode, immediate medical attention may be required.

There are three types of low blood pressure. Orthostatic hypotension occurs when you quickly shift positions, such as abruptly standing up. This normally lasts a few seconds to a few minutes. Neurally mediated hypotension (NMH) occurs in some people when they stand for a long time. In postprandial hypotension, your blood pressure drops after you eat a meal.

What causes it?

Low blood pressure has many causes, which include the following:

  • Medications such as such as alpha blockers, beta blockers, diuretics and some antidepressants
  • Anesthesia
  • Dehydration
  • Bacterial infections
  • Diabetes
  • Severe injuries
  • Pregnancy
  • Eating disorders
  • Anemia

When should you see a doctor?

With so many possible causes of low blood pressure, how do you determine if you need to see a physician? The following conditions are serious enough to warrant medical attention:

  • Chest pain
  • Dizziness, light-headedness, fainting, unconsciousness
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Painful urination
  • Fever of more than 101 degrees Fahrenheit

An Atlanta-area primary care physician can measure your blood pressure with a stethoscope and a sphygmomanometer, which consists of an inflatable arm cuff and a manometer. In addition, several tests may also be performed, including blood tests, an electrocardiogram, an echocardiogram or a stress test.

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