Orthostatic hypotension: causes, symptoms and treatment

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From this article you will learn: what is orthostatic hypotension or hypotension, when it develops and how it manifests, what treatment should be used in this disease.

  • Causes
    • Symptoms
    • Symptoms
    • Diagnosis
    • Treatment
    • Prevention of episodes of orthostatic hypotension
    • Prognosis

    For orthostatic hypotension, doctors mean lowering blood pressure( BP) below normal values ​​when a person suddenly rises from a sitting or lying position.

    Orthostatic drop in blood pressure develops due to an inadequate response of the cardiovascular system to a change in the position of the body. This inadequate reaction consists in insufficiently rapid narrowing of the blood vessels of the lower part of the body, which is necessary to maintain a normal BP when you get up. As a result, the blood stays longer in the vessels of the legs, it returns to the heart in less quantity, which leads to a decrease in cardiac output and a decrease in blood pressure.

    From usual hypotension orthostatic differs in that the BP decreases only at a sharp rise from a sitting or lying position, after which in most cases it is relatively quickly normalized. With usual hypotension, low blood pressure is observed almost continuously, regardless of the position of the body.

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    The duration of orthostatic hypotension more than a few minutes after getting up can be a sign of serious illnesses, so people with this problem should consult a doctor-therapist or cardiologist. Only revealing the reasons for lowering blood pressure and eliminating them can lead to complete recovery.


    Orthostatic hypotension has many potential causes. Its symptoms most often develop due to a decrease in the volume of blood inside the vessels.

    Table 1. Causes and risk factors for orthostatic hypotension:

    Reason name Description of the cause
    Dehydration Develops when fluid enters the body does not correspond to its loss. The main causes of dehydration are vomiting, diarrhea, increased body temperature, overheating of the body, treatment with diuretics.
    Blood loss and other causes of anemia Reducing the number of red blood cells that carry oxygen can lead to the development of symptoms of hypotension.
    Heart Disease Orthostatic hypotension can result in very low heart rate, problems with heart valves, heart failure.
    Endocrine problems Reduction of blood pressure can be caused by adrenal insufficiency, low blood sugar, diabetes mellitus. Diabetes can also damage the nerves that help send out signals that adjust the level of pressure.
    Nervous system disorders Some nerve diseases can disrupt the regulation of blood pressure in the body. These include Parkinson's disease, autonomic failure, amyloidosis.
    Beta-blockers These are medications used to lower blood pressure. Their use affects the ability of the body to adapt to changes in the position of the body.
    Sildenafil( Viagra), vardenafil( Levitra) and tadalafil( Cialis) These are drugs that are used for erectile dysfunction. They dilate the blood vessels, which can cause orthostatic hypotension. These effects are enhanced by the simultaneous administration of these drugs with nitrates( agents for the treatment of angina pectoris), alcoholic beverages or drugs.
    Medications for the treatment of mental illnesses Orthostatic hypotension may be a side effect of tricyclic antidepressants( amitriptyline) and monoamine oxidase( phenelzine) inhibitors.
    Elderly Orthostatic pressure reduction most often develops in the elderly. Atherosclerosis, affecting the arteries with age, complicates the rapid adaptation of blood vessels to a change in body position. In the elderly, many diseases progress, which are associated with a decrease in pressure.
    Pregnancy As the gestation period increases, the volume of the circulatory system rises, which can lower blood pressure. This can lead to dizziness when you get up quickly. After giving birth, the pressure is normalized.
    Alcohol abuse and addiction These are some other risk factors for the development of orthostatic hypotension symptoms.
    Post-prandial hypotension In some people, blood pressure drops after eating. This condition is most often observed in the elderly.
    Mechanism of blood volume change when changing the position "sitting" to the "standing" position. Click on photo to enlarge

    Symptoms of

    Symptoms of orthostatic hypotension - that is, lowering blood pressure with rapid changes in body position - are associated with insufficient blood supply to the brain. These include:

    • dizziness when rising from a sitting or lying position;
    • blurred vision;
    • weakness;
    • fainting;
    • confusion;
    • nausea;
    • tremor and shaky walking.

    These symptoms can quickly pass as the body adapts to a standing position. However, sometimes a person quickly has to sit down or lie down to prevent falling or fainting.

    The non-severe orthostatic hypotension disturbs a person only occasionally, having little effect on his life. In more severe cases, a decrease in blood pressure immediately after getting up from bed often develops, which affects the patient's quality of life and his ability to perform daily activities effectively.

    If rare cases of orthostatic hypotension can be attributed to work or exercise in a hot environment, then with more frequent episodes, you need to see a doctor.


    If the doctor thinks that a person has orthostatic hypotension, he measures his blood pressure in a recumbent, sitting and standing position. This diagnosis is established if, when moving to a standing position, the systolic blood pressure level is reduced by 20 mm Hg. Art.or diastolic - by 10 mm Hg. Art.

    The doctor also conducts a full examination, trying to detect a disease that causes hypotension. This allows you to choose the appropriate treatment. However, the cause of hypotension can not be determined.

    The doctor may also recommend an additional examination, including:

    • Blood tests - provide certain information about the general health status, and also help detect hypoglycemia( lowering blood glucose levels) or anemia( low blood hemoglobin) that can cause a drop in pressure.
    • Electrocardiography( ECG) - helps to detect violations of the heart, problems with its blood supply. Sometimes it is necessary to carry out daily recording of ECG( Holter monitoring).
    • Echocardiography is an ultrasound examination of the heart, by means of which it is possible to detect its structural diseases.
    • Stress test - monitoring the functioning of the heart during a physical or pharmacological load.
    • Valsalva is a test in which blood pressure and heart rate are measured at a time when the patient is taking a few deep breaths. With the help of Valsalva, the doctor checks the activity of the autonomic nervous system.
    • Tilt test - determines the body's response to changes in body position. During this examination, the person lies on the table in a horizontal position, then the upper part of the body begins to rise. This simulates the transition from horizontal to vertical position. As the table is tilted, the blood pressure is measured.
    Holter monitoring - daily recording of the cardiac ECG using the Holter's

    monitor Treatment of

    Treatment of orthostatic hypotension depends on the cause of its occurrence. Doctors always try to influence the underlying disease, but not the very reduction of blood pressure.

    With mild orthostatic hypotension, you just need to sit down or lie down immediately after the onset of dizziness. When lowered blood pressure is caused by medication, treatment consists in changing their dosage or completely stopping their use.

    Several drugs can be used to treat orthostatic pressure reduction.

    1. The drug fludrocortisone helps to increase the amount of fluid in the blood, thereby increasing blood pressure.
    2. Doctors often prescribe mediodrin, which limits the ability of blood vessels to expand, thereby increasing blood pressure.
    3. For orthostatic hypotension associated with Parkinson's disease, droxidopa can be used.
    4. With ineffective lifestyle changes and these drugs, pyridostigmine, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, caffeine and epoetin are sometimes used.
    Cortineff is one of the most popular means containing fludrocortisone

    Prevention of orthostatic hypotension episodes

    Simple ways to prevent lowering of blood pressure when changing body position:

    • Use more salt in your diet. This can only be done after a doctor's recommendation. Too much of it can cause an increase in blood pressure and increase the risk of other diseases.
    • Eat smaller portions. If the blood pressure drops after eating, the doctor may recommend eating low-carbohydrate foods and small portions.
    • Drink plenty of fluids. Maintaining a water balance helps to prevent a decrease in blood pressure. Especially this advice is important for patients with vomiting, diarrhea or fever.
    • Limit or avoid drinking alcohol, as alcohol can worsen orthostatic hypotension.
    • Physical Exercises. Before you sit down, do exercises for the muscles of the shin. Regular exercise can help reduce the symptoms of orthostatic hypotension.
    • Do not bend in the lower back. If you drop something on the floor, squat, bending your knees to raise this object.
    • Wear a compression jersey. It helps to reduce the amount of blood that accumulates in the legs when you get up, and relieves the symptoms of orthostatic hypotension.
    • Get up slowly. You can reduce dizziness and a feeling of faintness, slowly changing the position of the body when you get up. Instead of jumping off the bed in the morning, take a deep breath for a few minutes, and then sit down slowly. Before you get up, sit on the edge of the bed for at least a couple of minutes.
    • Raise the head end of the bed. Sleep in this position can help to fight the consequences of gravity.


    Prognosis for pathology orthostatic hypotension depends on the cause of its occurrence.

    By itself, lowering blood pressure can cause falls and injuries. It is also associated with an increased risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, heart failure and strokes.

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