Hypotension is the medical term for abnormally low blood pressure. It might surprise some to learn low blood pressure can be a dangerous condition. Many individuals want or need to lower their blood pressure since heightened blood pressure can lead to dangerous cardiovascular problems.
Some individuals have naturally low blood pressure and experience no ill effects and low blood pressure is not life-threatening as often as high blood pressure. However, there have been rare cases where blood pressure becomes low enough that it causes potentially fatal complications. Clinical hypotension occurs when the systolic number (the one on top) is lower than 90 mm Hg, or the diastolic number (the bottom number) is lower than 60 mm Hg.
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Lightheadedness and Dizziness
Lightheadedness and dizziness are two of the most common symptoms of low blood pressure. These occur because the brain is not receiving enough blood, which means it's being deprived of necessary oxygen. Patients might experience dizziness if they have a brief low blood pressure spell. Some individuals feel the dizziness and lightheadedness when they stand after they've been sitting or lying down. This can sometimes be because of the sudden increase in the necessary energy of the body. It can also happen if individuals have certain conditions that cause their blood pressure to drop sharply when they stand up. Individuals are more likely to notice dizziness when they're standing up, as a loss of balance is more noticeable from a standing position. They might become dizzy enough that they need to sit down. Some symptoms may precede a loss of consciousness, like narrowing of the vision, dark spots in front of the eyes, and a high-pitched ringing in the ears.
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Individuals who have chronic hypotension rather than just an occasional low blood pressure spell may find they've developed ongoing fatigue. Fatigue is a symptom of many different conditions, and it can be frustrating to diagnose because the causes are so hard to pinpoint. Individuals can generally consider themselves fatigued if they still feel tired after getting eight total hours of sleep. They might try to offset the effects with caffeine, but that tends to provide only temporary relief. Researchers believe there may be a link between low blood pressure and chronic fatigue syndrome, a medical condition that causes chronic fatigue with no discernible cause. More studies need to be done establishing if there's an actual provable link between the two. Part of the reason low blood pressure can cause fatigue is that the muscles and brain are both not getting the supply of nutrients necessary to keep functioning. This means affected individuals get tired much more easily regardless of how much they've slept. If individuals have to sleep more than nine hours, it's generally considered a symptom of fatigue.
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Nausea is a less common symptom of hypotension, but it's still a key marker. It's often accompanied by dizziness and lightheadedness. Affected individuals might feel as though they're unsure whether or not they're going to pass out or throw up. Nausea is defined as discomfort in the stomach and a sensation of needing to vomit. Some individuals experience nausea without actually vomiting, but it can be a precedent to vomiting stomach contents. It's rare for hypotension to cause vomiting on its own, but it is possible depending on how badly the dizziness and clamminess upset the sense of equilibrium in the patient's body. There's a hypotension condition called neutrally mediated hypotension that can lead to nausea. Rather than feeling nauseous and dizzy when standing, as with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), blood pressure only drops after patients have been standing for a long time. This can lead to what seems like spontaneous dizziness, fainting, and nausea. It can be hard to diagnose this condition if individuals don't often stand for long periods, since a diagnosis tends to happen after a pattern is established.
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Clammy skin can accompany drops in blood pressure. This happens when the skin suddenly becomes colder than usual and becomes unusually moist. It's common for clammy skin to make individuals look pale. Hypotension is one of many issues that can lead to clamminess, and any kind of circulatory issue can lead to clammy skin. When the body recognizes there is a crisis, it releases large amounts of adrenaline, which causes blood to decrease its flow toward the limbs, skin, and other peripheral body areas. Though this can make affected individuals feel weak and ill, it's actually a survival mechanism. The body is directing blood toward vital organs instead to keep them functioning as well as possible. Episodes of clamminess aren't always a sign there's an underlying cardiovascular illness. Anxiety attacks often lead to this reaction due to the change in heart rhythm. Low blood sugar can also have this effect, as can low levels of oxygen in the blood.
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Loss Of Consciousness
Loss of consciousness can occur as a result of hypotension, usually after patients experience dizziness and nausea. This form of consciousness loss is medically called syncope, and occurs when individuals temporarily lose consciousness, with the most common underlying cause being a lack of sufficient blood flow to the brain. The most common type of syncope is neutrally mediated syncope. This occurs when an individual suffers neutrally mediated hypotension after standing for long periods and passes out. It's a very common reason for emergency room visits. Young adults and children are more likely to experience neutrally mediated syncope, though it is possible to have an episode regardless of age. Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome patients sometimes lose consciousness immediately after standing up if their drop in blood pressure is severe enough. To receive a POTS diagnosis, an individual's blood pressure must drop at least thirty points when they stand.