Low Blood Pressure or Hypotension: Causes, diagnosis, Treatment

General or Other | Cardiology | Low Blood Pressure or Hypotension (Symptom)

Low Blood Pressure or Hypotension: Description

Blood pressure is the force exerted by circulating blood on the walls of blood vessels. It constitutes one of the critically important signs of life or vital signs which include heart beat, breathing, and temperature. Blood pressure is generated by the heart pumping blood into the arteries modified by the response of the arteries to the flow of blood.

An individual blood pressure is expressed as systolic/diastolic blood pressure, for example, 120/80. The systolic blood pressure (the top number) represents the pressure in the arteries as the muscle of the heart contracts and pumps blood into them. The diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) represents the pressure in the arteries as the muscle of the heart relaxes following its contraction. Blood pressure always is higher when the heart is pumping (squeezing) than when it is relaxing.

Low blood pressure (hypotension) is pressure so low that it causes symptoms or signs due to the low flow of blood through the arteries and veins. When the flow of blood is too low to deliver enough oxygen and nutrients to vital organs such as the brain, heart, and kidney, the organs do not function normally and may be temporarily or permanently damaged.

Low Blood Pressure or Hypotension: Causes

Unlike high blood pressure, low blood pressure is defined primarily by signs and symptoms of low blood flow and not by a specific blood pressure number. Some individuals routinely may have blood pressures of 90/50 with no symptoms and therefore do not have low blood pressure. However, others who normally have higher blood pressures may develop symptoms of low blood pressure if their blood pressure drops to 100/60. Blood pressure is determined by two factors: 1) The amount of blood pumped by the left ventricle of the heart into the arteries, and 2) the resistance to the flow of blood caused by the walls of the arterioles (smaller arteries).

Blood pressure tends to be lower if less blood is being pumped into the arteries or if the arterioles are larger and more flexible and, therefore, have less resistance to the flow of blood.

Low Blood Pressure or Hypotension: Treatment and Diagnosis

The tilt test can be used to confirm the diagnosis of orthostatic hypotension. This is to place the patient on a stretcher with a foot support. The table is tilted upward and blood pressure and pulse are measured when the symptoms occur in various positions. It is also known as postural hypotension.

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