What is it?
Postural hypotension describes a drop in blood pressure sufficient to cause an inadequate blood supply to the brain.
What are the symptoms?
You may feel dizzy and, or faint causing you to fall or blackout when:
- getting up quickly from lying or sitting positions
- standing still for any length of time
- getting out of a warm bath
- standing up after a big meal.
What causes it?
It can occur at any age but is more common in older people or after surgery.
Common causes include:-
- certain medicines (your doctor will advise you)
- prolonged bedrest
- dehydration (a lack of water in the body)
- rare conditions of the nerves.
How is it diagnosed?
Your doctor or nurse will measure your blood pressure at least once while you are lying down and again, after a minute or two, while you are standing up.
If your doctor or nurse finds such falls in blood pressure, they may be able to give you advice, reduce your present medicines or start you on specific tablet treatment.
What should I do if I feel dizzy?
- sit down immediately
- if possible lie down flat
- put your legs in the air, for example against a wall.
When you feel well again, get up cautiously. However if you have further symptoms you may need to lie down again.
How can I prevent symptoms occurring?
- Take particular care in the morning. Blood pressure tends to be lowest in the morning and therefore symptoms are likely to be worst.
- Get out of bed in stages. Cross and uncross your legs firmly before sitting up and again before standing. Sit down again promptly if you have symptoms at any time.
- Avoid sudden changes in posture. Bending suddenly may make your symptoms worse. Try to pause in between changes in posture.
- Avoid sitting or standing for long periods. If you do have to stand still, then rock forward on the balls of your feet to encourage blood flow.
- Raise the head of your bed with blocks. Use bricks or heavy books to raise the head of the bed by about 6 inches (an occupational therapist can advise on this).
- Wear support stockings or tights. This helps return blood to the heart. Take them off before going to bed.
What can I eat and drink to help my symptoms?
- Increase your fluid intake. You need to drink 3 to 4 pints (1.5 to 2 litres) of fluids per day, aiming to keep your urine clear all day.
- Your GP may give you specific advice about caffeine and salt intake. Please follow this advice.
- Take small, frequent meals. Some patients have large drops in blood pressure one or two hours after meals. Small meals help prevent this problem.
- Avoid excess alcohol. Alcohol will make your symptoms worse. You may find that you can tolerate a small drink but avoid taking large amounts in one go.
Are there any other treatments for postural hypotension?
Ideally we try to avoid using medicines to help symptoms but in some cases this is necessary. Your GP will always be able to discuss the pros and cons of any prescribed medicine.
South Tees Hospitals NHS Foundation Trust would like your feedback. If you wish to share your experience about your care and treatment or on behalf of a patient, please contact The Patient Experience Department who will advise you on how best to do this.
This service is based at The James Cook University Hospital but also covers the Friarage Hospital In Northallerton, our community hospitals and community health services.
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