Orthostatic hypotension (OH) is the most common reason for lightheadedness and loss of balance when standing.
It is a temporary lowering of blood pressure (hypotension), usually due to rising quickly from a chair, especially after a meal, or sitting up from bed in the morning. The change in position causes a temporary reduction in blood flow to the head and a shortage of oxygen to the brain.
Symptoms of Orthostatic Hypotension
Symptoms resulting from insufficient blood flow to the brain include:
- Feeling faint
- Loss of balance
- Visual disturbance
The symptoms are usually worse when standing and improve when lying down. They can be especially bothersome if the patient is dehydrated, as this may lead to decreased blood volume. Brief exercise before standing, such as crossing the legs several times or clenching fists may minimize symptoms.
Causes of Orthostatic Hypotension
OH can be caused by medications used to control blood pressure, heart rate, bladder problems or anxiety. Many medical conditions, the most common being diabetes, can also cause OH.
Treatment of Orthostatic Hypotension
To determine if you have OH your doctor will ask you to lie flat for five to ten minutes and then check your blood pressure. You will then stand up quickly and have your blood pressure rechecked immediately, and again after about one and three minutes.
To treat OH, the doctor will review your medications and may recommend increased hydration, brief exercise before rising and the use of support hose to reduce symptoms.