In medical terms, low blood pressure is defined as a decreased pressure of blood flow in the body’s blood vessels. It does not cause too many problems at most times, however, if the blood pressure dips too low, it may cause fainting, nausea and a range of other maladies. It is referred to as ‘hypotension’, whereas high blood pressure is referred to as ‘hypertension’.
Low blood pressure might seem desirable – it is better than a bout of hypertension – but in some cases, it might quickly become a life-threatening condition. Blood pressure that registers below 90 mm Hg for a systolic reading (on the mercury scale) or 60 mm Hg for the lowest number for a diastolic reading is low blood pressure. Sustained hypotension may result in damage to some of the internal organs such as the kidneys and lungs. Low systolic readings may indicate that the major organs of the body are receiving less blood, and they may even become irreversibly damaged.
What causes low blood pressure?
There are many causes for low blood pressure. These are:
- Endocrine disturbances
- Heart problems
- Indifferent breathing rhythms
- Blood loss due to injury
- Infection resulting in septicaemia
- Lack of adequate nutrition
- Lack of good quality sleep at night
- Certain medications for blood clotting, Alzheimer’s disease, depression, erectile dysfunction, alpha and beta blockers, etc.
- Excess weight (this results in the same amount of blood being pumped to bigger volumes of mass in the body, resulting in a drop in blood pressure)
Older age groups, those on daily medication and those suffering from certain diseases like mental health disorders, some heart diseases and , are more prone to hypotension than others.
What are its symptoms?
- The first and most common symptom of low blood pressure is light-headedness. You might see ‘stars’ or ‘dots’ in front of your eyes, with an accompanying feeling that your head is lighter and more relaxed. This feeling soon manifests into dizziness.
- The next symptom of low blood pressure is fainting. A person may experience light dizziness that quickly progresses to a blackout. You may not even realise that you have fainted. Hypotension may cause fainting even in those sitting down. Fainting happens when the systolic reading drops suddenly as low as 20 mm Hg, resulting in the brain not receiving sufficient supply of blood.
- Nausea is another symptom. You might feel the bile rising in your throat, or feel aversion towards food or food smells.
- Another common symptom, mostly after the hypotension has passed, is fatigue. Your muscles feel weakened and you experience severe lack of energy to move or perform your daily tasks.
- Some people report blurred vision when they suffer a bout of hypotension. It is often temporary and unaccompanied by other symptoms.
Can it become serious?
Though most people with low blood pressure don’t think so, severe or prolonged hypotension may even become fatal. Low blood pressure has the potential to become life-threatening if it progresses into shock. The symptoms of shock in a person suffering from low blood pressure are:
- Confusion, in which you may be unable to tell your name or recollect any details about yourself or your surroundings
- Rapid breathing in shallow bursts
- A rapid pulse that often results in fainting. After this, the person may slip into a coma if they don’t receive prompt medical attention
- Clammy skin that feels cold to the touch and looks pale
How is it diagnosed?
Most people are unaware that they suffer from low blood pressure. Hence, the problem is often undiagnosed in many cases.
If you often feel lightheaded or close to fainting, you might suffer from hypotension. You might suffer from any of the symptoms listed above and still feel fine after a while. In this case, your doctor will ask you to monitor your blood pressure daily and report anything that worries you.
In case of hypotension shock, a family member or friend will need to rush you to the doctor straight away. Always leave emergency contact numbers in your bag or wallet so that if you faint or go into shock outside the home, medical personnel can contact your family at once.
Low blood pressure is treated after the doctor determines the type of hypotension you suffer from. It could be:
- Postural hypotension: Low blood pressure in those standing up
- Postprandial hypotension: Low blood pressure after eating
- Neurally mediated hypotension: Low blood pressure arising from faulty brain signals
- Multiple system atrophy hypotension: Low blood pressure arising from a damage to the nervous system
If not associated with any diseases, most hypotensions respond to lying down with feet elevated. Continuous monitoring and consumption of coffee or electrolyte solutions are advised. Please discuss with a physician to better address queries around managing hypotension associated with other diseases.
If rest and supplements do not resolve the issue or if there are recurrent episodes, then it would need to be evaluated by a doctor.
Disclaimer : The details provided herein is meant for informative purposes only. For detailed information related to the disease and its treatment please consult a relevant qualified specialist.
The doctor determines the course of medication and any lifestyle changes required to keep the condition under control. Most people are able to lead normal lives despite living with hypotension. However, you must take care to follow the treatment plan diligently, and get as much exercise, nutritious food and deep sleep as possible.