What is Orthostatic Hypotension?

Your body has a network of blood vessels made up of arteries, veins, and capillaries. The heart pumps blood into the arteries, which carry the blood throughout the body. Blood pressure is the pressure or force of blood pushing against the walls of the arteries.

Blood pressure is written as two numbers; for example, 120 over 80 millimeters of mercury. The first number is the systolic pressure. This is the pressure in the arteries when the heart beats and fills them with blood. The second number is the diastolic pressure. This is the pressure in the arteries when the heart rests between beats.

Orthostatic hypotension is a condition in which your blood pressure falls significantly when you stand up quickly. (Hypotension is low blood pressure.)

What are the causes of orthostatic hypotension?

The causes of orthostatic hypotension include the following:

  • Aging (orthostatic hypotension is more common in older people)
  • Hypovolemia (a drop in the volume of blood) and dehydration (low fluid volume in the body). Common causes of these are bleeding, elevated sugar, diarrhea, vomiting, and medications like thiazide diuretics (HCTZ) and loop diuretics (furosemide, bumetanide)
  • Dehydration (low fluid volume in the body)
  • Immobility (for instance, staying in bed for a long time)
  • Pregnancy
  • Heart conditions, including heart attack, heart failure, irregular heart rhythm, and valve disease
  • Anemia (low red blood cell count)
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Diseases of the endocrine system, including diabetes, adrenal insufficiency, and thyroid conditions
  • Medications that are used to treat elevated blood pressure, such as beta blockers, calcium channel blockers, ACE inhibitors, nitrates, and angiotensin II blockers. Patients who are at risk for this are those with conditions listed above (for example, diabetes, Parkinson’s)
  • Other medications for anxiety, depression, erectile dysfunction, or Parkinson's disease
  • Substances that are taken at the same time as blood pressure medications, such as alcohol, barbiturates, and other medications
  • Hot weather

What are the symptoms of orthostatic hypotension?

The main symptom of orthostatic hypotension is feeling dizzy or lightheaded when you stand up. In some cases, people with orthostatic hypotension may even faint.

Other symptoms include:

  • Blurred vision
  • Nausea
  • Disorientation or confusion
  • Feeling weak
  • Fatigue
  • Falling
  • Chest pain

These symptoms usually clear up when you sit or lie down for a few minutes.