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Orthostatic hypotension, also called postural hypotension, is a sudden fall in blood pressure that occurs when you stand up quickly. Hypotension is the term for low blood pressure. Blood pressure is the force of your blood against the walls of your arteries.
When you stand up, gravity pulls blood into your legs, and your blood pressure begins to fall. Certain reflexes in your body compensate for this change. Your heart beats faster to pump more blood. And your blood vessels constrict to prevent blood from pooling in your legs.
Many drugs can affect these normal reflexes and lead to orthostatic hypotension. These reflexes may also begin to weaken as you age. For this reason, orthostatic hypotension is more common in older adults. About 20 percent of people older than 65 years of age experience orthostatic hypotension, according to research published in American Family Physician.
People with orthostatic hypotension may feel dizzy when they stand up. The condition is often mild and lasts for just a few minutes after standing. Some people may faint, or lose consciousness.
There are many causes for orthostatic hypotension. These include:
The most common symptoms of orthostatic hypotension are dizziness and lightheadedness upon standing up. The symptoms will usually go away upon sitting or lying down.
Other common symptoms include:
Less common symptoms, according to American Family Physician, can include:
If your doctor suspects that you have orthostatic hypotension, they will check your blood pressure while you are sitting, lying down, and standing. Your doctor can diagnose orthostatic hypotension if your systolic blood pressure drops by 20 millimeters of mercury (mm Hg), or your diastolic blood pressure drops by 10 mm Hg within three minutes of standing up, according to the Mayo Clinic.
To find the underlying cause, your doctor may also:
The tests your doctor may order include:
Treatment for orthostatic hypotension depends on the cause. Doctor-recommended treatment may include the following lifestyle changes:
For severe cases, your doctor may prescribe drugs that work to increase blood volume or constrict blood vessels. According to the Cleveland Clinic, these drugs might include:
In most cases, treating the underlying condition will cure orthostatic hypotension. With treatment, people who experience orthostatic hypotension can reduce or eliminate symptoms.
Written by: Jacquelyn Cafasso
Medically reviewed on: Nov 07, 2016: Deborah Weatherspoon, PhD, RN, CRNA, COI
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