Orthostatic hypotension (postural hypotension) can cause you to feel dizzy or faint when standing. This blood pressure-related condition can also cause some people to feel lightheaded.
Postural hypotension occurs when a person’s blood pressure drops when lying down or standing up.
Mild cases are most common, lasting for just a few minutes before a person feels normal again. But severe cases can be life-altering and also indicate the potential of other serious medical conditions.
Chronic orthostatic hypotension should be diagnosed by a physician. When a person is suffering from chronic symptoms, it’s important to seek treatment, as an array of health problems may be the cause. Acute orthostatic hypotension is also possible, and in this case, the condition is less severe.
Acute bouts of the condition are often a result of dehydration or lying in bed too long before standing.
Causes of Orthostatic Hypotension
Persons age 65 or older are at a higher risk of suffering from orthostatic hypotension. As a person ages, their cells near the neck and heart will slow down. These cells are responsible for regulating blood pressure, making it more difficult for the heart to combat blood pressure drops.
You may also experience this condition if you:
- Take medications. Medications can increase your risks of orthostatic hypotension. Blood pressure and heart disease medications often cause blood pressure issues. Diuretics can cause blood pressure drops, too. Antidepressants, muscle relaxants, antipsychotics and medications related to erectile dysfunction can cause low blood pressure.
- Stay in the heat. Extreme bouts of heat can lead to dehydration, which will cause a drop in blood pressure.
- Suffer from disease. Heart disease is a common cause of blood pressure drops. Neuropathy, nervous system disorders, diabetes and Parkinson’s disease are all known to alter blood pressure, causing blood pressure levels to drop.
- Are pregnant. A woman’s circulatory system expands rapidly when pregnant. The rapid expansion puts stress on the woman’s heart, which often causes blood pressure levels to drop. Women that suffer from this condition when pregnant will find that their bodies will adapt to the change and revert back to normal following the pregnancy.
These causes can all be eliminated with a change in medication, by consuming more water or by simply contacting your physician. Alcohol can cause blood pressure drops, and the risk of orthostatic hypotension is increased for a person that drinks.
Bed rest, over a long period of time, can cause orthostatic hypertension. A person may need to use a tilt table to get the body accustomed to a change in position and blood flow. When people are constrained to a bed for a long period of time, they will also suffer from muscle weakness, making the feeling of being faint more dramatic.
Gravity causes the blood to pool to the lower limbs. When you stand, the heart will have less blood circulating back to the heart. The baroreceptors in the body normally sense this blood pressure drop, telling the heart to beat faster to supply more blood to the body.
A heart that beats faster as a result of this signal helps stabilize the body’s blood pressure levels
Interruptions to the body’s natural response is the cause for orthostatic hypotension. Several conditions can cause this interruption, including:
- Heart problems. A main factor in blood pressure drops is a person’s heart. There are certain heart conditions that will cause a person to suffer from low blood pressure. Bradycardia is one condition, along with heart failure and a heart attack, which will cause blood pressure levels to drop. Heart valve problems can also stop the heart from reacting quickly to a drop in blood pressure.
- Nervous system conditions. A nervous system disorder or disease, such as Lewy body dementia, can result in the heart not reacting to the signals from the brain telling it to pump faster. These conditions may be able to be controlled through medication in severe cases.
- Endocrine issues. A person that is suffering from thyroid conditions or diabetes may suffer from low blood sugar. Low blood sugar will cause orthostatic hypotension. These conditions can cause damage to the body’s nerves, resulting in the blood pressure regulating signals being disrupted.
If you’re suffering from diarrhea, vomiting, not drinking enough or engaged in strenuous activity, it’s possible that dehydration has set in and causing a decrease in blood volume. Even mild dehydration can cause fatigue and dizziness – both symptoms of orthostatic hypotension.
Symptoms of Orthostatic Hypotension
If you’re suffering from postural hypotension, the two most common symptoms you’ll experience are:
These two symptoms will present when standing up, sitting up or lying down. The good news is that the symptoms often last less than a few minutes before going away. Your heart will work harder to adapt to the change in blood pressure, and oftentimes, this is a rapid response. In some cases, the response will take longer and cause symptoms to last longer.
You may also notice the following symptoms:
- Blurry vision
The good news is that if these symptoms are only occasional and minor, there’s no need for concern. Something as simple as drinking more water or getting into the shade can correct most of these symptoms.
Frequent symptoms of postural hypotension should result in a visit to the doctor.
A major concern with chronic hypotension is that there’s an underlying condition which is often serious in nature. Some people will lose consciousness, and if this occurs, it’s vital to go and seek medical attention immediately. Even a few seconds of lost consciousness will warrant seeing a doctor.
If you feel these symptoms suddenly when driving or walking, it’s important to consult with your doctor to remain safe.
You may be at risk of:
- Cardiovascular disease
Reduced blood supply to the brain may result in a stroke. Falls due to dizziness and lightheadedness can also occur, causing severe injuries in the process. Treatments will include addressing the underlying cause of your blood pressure drop not being corrected by the body.
Tim is a professional caregiver who has helped hundreds of seniors gain back their freedom and independence. He has been actively helping the senior community for 20+ years.