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Definition of Low blood pressure

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Low blood pressure: Any blood pressure that is below the normal expected for an individual in a given environment. Low blood pressure is also referred to as hypotension.

Low blood pressure is a relative term because the blood pressure normally varies greatly with activity, age, medications, and underlying medical conditions.

Low blood pressure can result from conditions of the nervous system, conditions that do not begin in the nervous system, and drugs.

Neurologic conditions that can lead to low blood pressure include changing position from lying to more vertical (postural hypotension), stroke, shock, lightheadedness after urinating or defecating, Parkinson's disease, neuropathy and simply fright.

Nonneurologic conditions that can cause low blood pressure include bleeding, infections, dehydration, heart disease, adrenal insufficiency, pregnancy, prolonged bed rest, poisoning, toxic shock syndrome, and blood transfusion reactions.

Hypotensive drugs include blood pressure drugs, diuretics (water pills), heart medications (especially calcium antagonists-nifedipine/PROCARDIA, beta blockers-propranolol/INDERAL and others), depression medications (such as amitriptyline/ELAVIL), and alcohol.

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Reviewed on 12/27/2018

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