Orthostatic hypotension

Orthostatic hypotension, sometimes referred to as postural hypotension, is a type of low blood pressure. Generally, a person experiences orthostatic hypotension when standing up, either from a sitting position or from lying down. The most common symptoms of orthostatic hypotension is a slight dizzy feeling or a feeling of lightheadedness. Generally, these symptoms only last a few seconds, although they can last as long as several minutes. However, sometimes the symptoms are so great that they actually cause a person to faint.

Orthostatic hypotension can affect anyone regardless of age, gender, or health. However, it is more common in the elderly. Most often, orthostatic hypotension is not a major problem, even in older adults. However, if a person suffers from lightheadedness or dizziness most of the time when standing, it can be an indication of a much more serious problem. In these cases, it is important to speak to a medical professional to see if tests need to be run. It’s even more important to speak to a doctor about orthostatic hypotension if a person loses consciousness, even if it is just for a few seconds.

While lightheadedness and dizziness are the two most common symptoms of orthostatic hypotension, there are a few others. Sometimes, a person may experience blurry vision, a short period of confusion, some nausea, a headache, or even feel weak for a few moments. Of course, not everyone is going to experience all of these symptoms at once—most experience only one or two. Sometimes, the symptoms are not the same, either. A person may have blurry vision during one episode of orthostatic hypotension but not experience this the next time.

What causes orthostatic hypotension? That can often be difficult to determine. The low blood pressure can be caused by some minor issue such as low blood sugar, dehydration, or even being out in the sun too long or spending too much time in a hot tub. However, there are more serious problems that can be behind orthostatic hypotension. Some heart conditions can prevent the body for circulating enough blood to maintain blood pressure. The same goes for some nervous system disorders, including Parkinson’s disease. Untreated diabetes is another cause since it can damage nerves and lead to dehydration.

In addition to these illnesses, some medications may cause blood pressure to drop. These include some medications for heart conditions, narcotics, Viagra, and alcohol. Your doctor should warn you of any medication that may result in low blood pressure. Other risk factors include being out in the heat too long, pregnancy, and sitting too long with your legs crossed at the knees. If you’ve been put on bed rest, you may also experience orthostatic hypotension when standing.

Many with mild orthostatic hypotension do not need any sort of treatment. These people will simply deal with the slight dizziness or lightheadedness, and it generally only occurs every now and then. It’s not a huge concern. However, the more serious cases of orthostatic hypotension, especially those which involve a person losing consciousness, should be taken very seriously. These cases will need treatment, although what kind of treatment will depend on what is causing the orthostatic hypotension.

How do you know when your orthostatic hypotension and its symptoms are severe enough to warrant seeing a doctor? Again, if you lose consciousness, even for a split second, it is vital you see your doctor as soon as possible. If you start to experience orthostatic hypotension often, this is another sign that you should see your doctor. You may find it helpful to start keeping track of your episodes, what symptoms you have, and what you were doing when the episode came on.

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Last updated on Jan 17th, 2010 and filed under Cardiovascular Disorders. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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