Shock is the sudden development of hypotension (low blood pressure), inadequate to sustain blood circulation, usually causing
cold, clammy, gray skin and extremities, faintness and mental confusion,
and decreased urine production. Shock is caused by acute blood loss; burns
with plasma loss; extreme allergic reaction;
acute heart failure; massive pulmonary
embolism; damage to the nervous system; and sepsis.
If not treated immediately, shock can get worse rapidly leading to death.
Early replacement of plasma or blood and
administration of drugs to improve blood circulation re necessary to prevent
permanent brain damage and acute kidney failure.
Major classes of shock include:
Cardiogenic shock (associated
with heart problems)
Hypovolemic shock (caused by inadequate blood volume)
Anaphylactic shock (caused by
Septic shock (associated with infections)
Neurogenic shock (caused by damage to the nervous system)
Shock can be caused by any condition that reduces blood flow, including:
Heart problems (such as heart attack or heart failure)
Low blood volume (as with heavy bleeding or dehydration)
Changes in blood vessels (as with infection or severe allergic reactions)
Shock is often associated with heavy external or internal bleeding from
a serious injury. Spinal injuries can also cause shock.
Toxic shock syndrome is an example of a type of shock from an infection.
Symptoms of shock
A person in shock has extremely low blood pressure. Depending on the specific
cause and type of shock, symptoms will include one or more of the following:
Anxiety or agitation
Pale, cool, clammy skin
Low or no urine output
Bluish lips and fingernails
Dizziness, light-headedness, or faintness
Profuse sweating, moist skin
Rapid but weak pulse
Call immediately for emergency medical help.
Check the person's airways, breathing, and circulation. If necessary,
begin rescue breathing and CPR.
Even if the person is able to breathe on his or her own, continue
to check rate of breathing at least every 5 minutes until help arrives.
If the person is conscious and does NOT have an injury to the head,
leg, neck, or spine, place the person in the shock position. Lay the
person on the back and elevate the legs about 12 inches. Do NOT elevate
the head. If raising the legs will cause pain or potential harm, leave
the person lying flat.
Give appropriate first aid for any wounds, injuries, or illnesses.
Keep the person warm and comfortable. Loosen tight clothing.
IF THE PERSON VOMITS OR DROOLS
Turn the head to one side so he or she will not choke. Do this as
long as there is no suspicion of spinal injury.
If a spinal injury is suspected, "log roll" him or her instead. Keep
the person's head, neck, and back in line, and roll him or her as a
Do NOT give the person anything by mouth, including anything to eat
Do NOT move the person with a known or suspected spinal injury.
Do NOT wait for milder shock symptoms to worsen before calling for
emergency medical help.
Prevention of shock
Learn ways to prevent heart disease, falls, injuries, dehydration, and other
causes of shock. If you have a known allergy (for example, to insect bites
or stings), carry an epinephrine pen. Your doctor will teach you how and
when to use it.
Once someone is already in shock, the sooner shock is treated, the less
damage there may be to the person's vital organs (like the kidney, liver,
and brain). Early first aid and emergency medical help can save a life.