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When a person stands up from sitting or lying down, the body must work to adjust to that change in position. It is especially important for the body to push blood upward and supply the brain with oxygen. If the body fails to do this adequately, blood pressure falls, and a person may feel lightheaded or even pass out. Orthostatic hypotension
is the term used to describe the fall in blood pressure when a person stands (orthostatic= upright posture of the body; hypo= less + tension=pressure).
Orthostatic hypotension has many potential causes, some affecting only one part of the system that supplies blood to the brain, and others affecting two or three.
Feeling faint or lightheaded is not normal. While a rare episode that can be explained by circumstances, such as working or exercising in the heat, may be ignored, more frequent occurrences should be investigated.
The treatment for orthostatic hypotension depends upon the underlying diagnosis. If the cause is dehydration
, then fluid replacement will resolve the symptoms. If it is due to medication, then an adjustment of the dose or change in the type of medicine taken may be required. Medications may be of use, again depending upon the underlying cause of the orthostatic hypotension. For those who are otherwise healthy and have no specific illness that must be treated, increased salt and fluid intake may be recommended. Caffeine and nonsteroidal antiinflammatory medications for example, ibuprofen
may also be suggested.
Since dehydration is the most common cause of orthostatic hypotension, it is important to minimize the risk by keeping adequately hydrated. This is especially important if an individual works or exercises in a hot environment. Fluid lost from vomiting, diarrhea, and other illnesses that are associated with a fever should be replaced as best as possible.
• Your autonomic nervous system makes changes in blood pressure and heart rate
to allow the body to provide adequate blood supply to the brain when the body changes position.
• Symptoms of orthostatic hypotension include lightheadedness
, weakness, blurred vision
, and syncope or passing out.
• Dehydration, blood loss, and anemia are the most common reasons to develop low blood pressure when standing.
• Vasovagal syncope may cause symptoms of fainting when the vagus nerve
is stimulated by a noxious stimulus, either physical (pain) or emotional.
• Diagnosis is often made by history and physical examination. Injury from falling is the main complication of orthostatic hypotension.
• Maintaining adequate hydration is the best way to prevent orthostatic hypotension.