When is low blood pressure (hypotension) a medical emergency?

Low blood pressure can be a sign of good health. However, if it gets too low (hypotension) that could mean that not enough blood is reaching your vital organs, leaving them starved of oxygen. This can cause shock. You could have a medical emergency if any of the following signs and symptoms happen along with low blood pressure:

  • Nausea.
  • Cold, clammy, pale skin.
  • Rapid, shallow breathing. Heart palpitations.
  • Dehydration, thirst.
  • Dizziness lightheadedness, fainting.
  • Headache, neck or back pain.
  • Lack of concentration.
  • Blurred vision.
  • Fatigue.
  • Depression.

Call 911 or go to your emergency room if you experience signs of severely low blood pressure or shock.

What causes low blood pressure?

  • Pregnancy. Blood pressure commonly drops during a woman’s first 24 weeks of pregnancy.
  • Blood loss, whether from blood donation or some sort of trauma.
  • Prolonged bed rest.
  • Endocrine issues such as hypothyroidism.
  • Some medications, including some for depression, heart conditions and high blood pressure.
  • Emotional distress.
  • Nutritional deficiencies such as lack of vitamin B12 and folic acid.
  • Heart problems like a low heart rate (bradycardia).
  • Severe infection (septic shock).
  • Allergic reaction (anaphylaxis).

What questions might I be asked in the emergency room?

Your healthcare provider will interview you when you enter the emergency room. Do your best to prepare yourself to answer the following questions, and more, that your healthcare provider may ask.

  • What medications are you on?
  • What symptoms do you have?
  • How long have you had these symptoms?

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 01/14/2021.

References

  • American Heart Association. Accessed 1/8/2021. How low is too low for blood pressure? (https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/the-facts-about-high-blood-pressure/low-blood-pressure-when-blood-pressure-is-too-low)
  • Victoria State Government. . Accessed 1/8/2021. Blood pressure (low) – hypotension (https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/blood-pressure-low-hypotension)
  • National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. . Accessed 1/8/2021. Low Blood Pressure (https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/low-blood-pressure)
  • British Heart Foundation. Accessed 1/8/2021.What causes low blood pressure and what are low blood pressure symptoms? (https://www.bhf.org.uk/informationsupport/heart-matters-magazine/medical/ask-the-experts/low-blood-pressure)

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