Low blood pressure (hypotension)

Specialty of Internal medicine

What is low blood pressure?

Blood pressure is the amount that your blood presses against the walls of the blood vessels as it moves around the body. When the blood presses hard, it causes strain on the arteries and is known as high blood pressure or hypertension.

Low blood pressure, on the other hand, is a sign that the flow of blood around the body is inadequate.

Low blood pressure is sometimes categorised into:

  • Postural hypotension – this is low blood pressure that occurs when you stand up from sitting or lying down
  • Postprandial hypotension – low blood pressure that occurs after eating a large meal
  • Neutrally mediated hypotension – low blood pressure that occurs after standing or sitting for long periods of time, with the body failing to regulate the flow of blood around the body

Is it serious?

Low blood pressure is not serious if there are no symptoms. Many people have low blood pressure without realising, and many more are diagnosed with low blood pressure but do not need treatment.

Low blood pressure is only an issue if it leads to symptoms such as light-headedness or dizziness. In severe cases, a sudden drop in blood pressure can lead to inadequate blood supply to the brain or other organs, resulting in shock or organ failure.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms, if they occur at all, can include:

  • dizziness
  • fatigue
  • problems with concentration
  • blurred vision
  • fainting

Symptoms that would indicate that your body has gone into shock, meanwhile, include clammy skin, a weak pulse, and confusion.

How is low blood pressure diagnosed?

You can get your blood pressure checked by a GP, pharmacy nurse or at home using a blood pressure monitoring kit.

The blood pressure monitor will give you a reading composed of two numbers. You are generally diagnosed with low blood pressure if this reading is below 90/60mmHg.

What causes low blood pressure?

The main causes of low blood pressure are:

How can low blood pressure be prevented?

You can help prevent blood pressure by:

  • drinking plenty of water
  • wearing compression stockings to regulate the circulation of blood around your body
  • moving slowly when you sit or stand up
  • eating smaller and more frequent meals

How is low blood pressure treated?

In many cases, low blood pressure can be tackled by treating the underlying cause, which usually involves changing the medication you are taking.