What is hypotension?

Hypotension, commonly known as low blood pressure, is when a patient’s blood pressure levels drop to or below 90/60 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg).

Hypotension can be defined as either absolute hypotension or orthostatic hypotension. Absolute hypotension is when a patient’s resting blood pressure levels are abnormally low (below 90/60 mm Hg). Orthostatic hypotension is when a patient experiences significant fluctuations in blood pressure while moving from a standing to a sitting position or vice versa. Although some fluctuation is normal, extended fluctuation beyond three minutes is cause for concern.

While hypotension can affect patients of any age, patients older than 50 years old are at higher risk. Symptoms of hypotension may include dizziness or lightheadedness, fainting, nausea or vomiting, blurred vision, shallow breathing, fatigue, or confusion.

A variety of factors can cause hypotension. Some common causes include standing too quickly, heart and lung conditions, low blood volume, prescription medications, alcohol or recreational drug use, and pregnancy.

Why is hypotension important in healthcare?

Proper blood flow is important to the overall health of a patient. When hypotension occurs, the body is not getting enough blood, which may lead to severe problems like organ failure, especially in at-risk individuals.

Healthcare providers should factor hypotension into consideration when deciding on treatment plans and prescription drugs. If a patient is already experiencing hypotension or experiences relatively low blood pressure, alternate treatments that do not involve lowering blood pressure should be considered. Additionally, low blood pressure could be a sign of other undiagnosed, underlying conditions.