Shock occurs when inadequate blood flow threatens the function of multiple organs. Shock is a potentially life-threatening condition. The sooner it is treated, the better the outcome. If you suspect someone is in shock, call for medical help right away.
Some causes of shock include:
The following factors increase your chances of developing shock:
- Pre-existing heart or blood vessel disease
- Impaired immunity
- Severe allergies
- Severe trauma
The symptoms of shock depend on the cause.
Symptoms may include:
- Altered mental status
- Cool and clammy skin
- Pale or mottled skin color
- Low blood pressure
- Decreased urination
- Weak and rapid pulse
- Slow and shallow or rapid and deep breathing
- Lackluster (dull) eyes
- Dilated pupils
- High or low body temperature
Symptom of Shock
A physical exam will be done.
Tests may include the following:
- Breathing assessment
- Blood pressure measurement
- Heart rate monitoring
- Other testing depending on the cause of shock
- Blood tests and cultures
- Imaging studies
Treatment options include the following:
If you are having trouble breathing, your doctor will clear your airway. Oxygen and breathing assistance may be provided if you need it.
Optimizing Blood Pressure and Heart Rate
You will receive an IV for fluids and/or blood transfusions. These will stabilize your blood pressure and heart rate.
Insertion of IV for Transfusion or Medications
To help reduce your chances of getting shock, take the following steps:
- Prevent or control heart or vascular disease.
- Avoid activities that put you at risk of falls or other injuries.
- Carry an epinephrine pen with you if you have a severe allergy.
- Manage conditions, such as diabetes, as advised by your doctor.
American College of Emergency Physicians
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians
Canadian Red Cross
Hypovolemic shock. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated December 3, 2013. Accessed January 7, 2014.
The signs of hypovolemic shock. Health Guidance website. Available at: http://www.healthguidance.org/entry/12784/1/The-Signs-of-Hypovolemic-Shock.html. Accessed January 7, 2014.
What is cardiogenic shock? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/shock/printall-index.html. Accessed January 7, 2013.
Last reviewed December 2013 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.