What is Hypotension?

Dr. Richard Bebb, MD, ABIM, FRCPC, Endocrinologist, discusses what is Hypotension.

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Dr. Richard Bebb, MD, ABIM, FRCPC, Endocrinologist, discusses what is Hypotension.
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Featuring Dr. Richard Bebb, MD, ABIM, FRCPC, Endocrinologist

Duration: 3 minutes, 8 seconds

Low blood pressure is referred to medically as hypotension, and it has a number of causes. It can be that the heart is not producing enough pressure, the heart’s not pushing frequently enough so not enough blood’s coming into the circulation.

It could be that the blood vessels are loose, are relaxed, or it could be because there’s not enough fluid in the blood vessels, and that could be because of blood loss or salt or sodium loss, and any of those could cause low blood pressure.

Other common causes are drug side effects, there are a number of drugs that can cause low blood pressure. Probably on the top of the list are antihypertensive drugs, drugs that we use to treat high blood pressure.

And if your dose is excessive, or perhaps you inadvertently increase the dose by accident – that’s a common cause – mixing drugs together - certain drugs will potentiate the low blood pressure effect of one drug, and that can cause low blood pressure. Antidepressants can do it, there’s a very long list.

And one of the things you’ll have to explore with your practitioner is which drugs you’re on, or if there’s something that you’re eating or ingesting, or not eating or ingesting that is potentiating the low blood pressure.

The symptoms of low blood pressure can include lightheadedness, dizziness, feeling weak, particularly if it’s occurring as one gets up. Out of a chair, out of bed, from a sitting or lying position, which ties in a bit to part of the treatment.

If patients chronically have low blood pressure, they learn to get up slowly. In a severe situation, if one was to get up quickly, with low blood pressure, you’d pass out, and potentially could hurt yourself by falling.

So the treatment for low blood pressure depends on what the cause is. If someone has lost blood, for example, in an acute situation, a trauma, then perhaps giving them a transfusion in an emergency situation would be appropriate.

If patients have lost blood, but it’s not an emergency and they are coping well, or well enough, we would then encourage volume, lots of fluids, iron supplements perhaps, and allow the body to regenerate the blood that was lost.

A more common cause of low blood pressure is related to depletion of salt. People often think it’s fluid that keeps their blood vessels full. It’s actually salt, or sodium, and if you don’t have enough sodium, whether because you’ve exercised strenuously and you’ve depleted your body, or you’ve been fasting, or you just haven’t had enough salt in your body, you can cause low blood pressure. And that’s remediable by just increasing your salt intake.

If you think you have symptoms of low blood pressure, or you do have low blood pressure, you need to explore the causes and treatments with your primary care physician.

Presenter: Dr. Richard Bebb