Understanding Orthostatic Hypotension
Orthostatic hypotension is low blood pressure when you stand up from sitting or lying down. It can cause symptoms for such as dizziness, lightheadedness, and blurry vision. It may also cause fainting and falls. Sitting or lying down makes the symptoms get better.
How to say it
What causes orthostatic hypotension?
Blood pressure is how much force with which your blood moves through your blood vessels. Hypertension means blood pressure is high. Hypotension means it’s low. Orthostatic means upright posture. Many things can cause blood pressure to be too low when you stand up.
Some medicines can cause orthostatic hypotension. These include:
Blood pressure medicines
Water pills (diuretics)
Some heart medicines
Some pain, anxiety, sedative, and sleeping medicines
Other causes include:
Eating a large meal
Loss of body fluids (dehydration) from vomiting, diarrhea, or not drinking enough
Changes in blood vessels because of older age
Blood loss, such as bleeding from the stomach or intestines
Neurological diseases that impair the autonomic nervous system, such as Parkinson disease
Congestive heart failure
Symptoms of orthostatic hypotension
Symptoms happen when you stand up from sitting or lying down. They can also happen after standing for a long time. They can include:
Pain in the back of head, neck, and shoulders
The symptoms get better or go away when you sit or lie down.
Diagnosing orthostatic hypotension
Your healthcare provider will ask about your symptoms and health history. Make sure to tell him or her every medicine that you take. This includes over-the-counter supplements, vitamins, and herbs. Also tell your healthcare provider if you have been sick recently.
You may also have tests such as:
Blood pressure test. Your healthcare provider will measure your blood pressure while sitting and when standing up.
Blood tests. These check for illness or other conditions that may cause the problem.
Electrocardiogram (ECG). This test looks at the electrical activity of your heart.
Treatment for orthostatic hypotension
Treatment may depend on what is causing your low blood pressure. It can include any of these:
Stopping medicines that may be causing symptoms
Standing up slowly
Not spending time in hot weather
Drinking plenty of fluids
Eating more salt
Drinking less alcohol
In some cases, your healthcare provider may prescribe a medicine to help prevent orthostatic hypotension. Talk with your healthcare providers about the risks, benefits, and possible side effects of all medicines.
Possible complications of orthostatic hypotension
The condition can cause falls, especially in older adults. Falls can lead to injury and time in the hospital. People with orthostatic hypotension may also have a higher risk for future heart problems. These include congestive heart failure and heart rhythm problems. In some cases, it can cause stroke.
Living with orthostatic hypotension
Change positions slowly from lying to standing. When getting out of bed, sit on the side of the bed with your legs down for at least 30 seconds before standing. This gives your body time to adjust to the position change.
When to call your healthcare provider
Call your healthcare provider if you have any of the following:
Dizziness, lightheadedness, or fainting
Fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by your healthcare provider
Symptoms that don’t get better, or get worse
Black or red color in your stools or vomit
Diarrhea or vomiting that doesn’t stop
Inability to eat or drink
Burning when you urinate