When a person is in shock always consider it a life threatening condition. Any time the body has reached this state it is because the blood pressure has reached a point too low to sustain life. Severely low blood pressure can be brought on by a low blood volume, extensive relaxation of the blood vessel walls or the inadequate pumping action of the heart. This type of low blood pressure is much more serious than that found in fainting. As the blood pressure drops when a person is in shock the body cells receive an inadequate supply of blood and can quickly be permanently damaged and die.
The low blood pressure that creates shock can occur due to low blood volume or the inadequate pumping action of the heart. Symptoms of shock my begin with confusion, tiredness or sleepiness, cold, sweaty skin that appears bluish and pale. In most cases when the skin is pressed on a person who is in shock the color returns much slower than normal. Unless a slow heart beat is causing the shock the pulse will be weak but rapid and a network of bluish lines may appear under the skin. In most cases the blood pressure will drop so low that it can’t be measured and the patient may not be able to sit up without losing consciousness. If the shock has resulted from over dilation of the blood vessels, the skin will appear warm and flushed in the early stages of shock.
Shock often occurs because of blood loss brought about by an accident or internal bleeding such as that caused by a stomach ulcer or intestine, ruptured blood vessels, or ruptured ectopic pregnancy. With major burns, perforation of the intestinal wall, severe diarrhea, kidney disease, inflammation of the pancreas or excessive use of strong drugs, extremely high amounts of other bodily fluids can be lost also causing shock. Head injuries, liver failure, poisoning and drug over doses can cause the body to go into shock. Severe bacterial infections can cause what is known a septic shock. Septic shock can be very hard to detect since there may be no symptoms at the beginning or they may be difficult to detect. In this case the blood pressure will be extremely low, with very little urine output causing waste products to build in the blood. Septic shock is caused by an increased capacity of the blood vessels and most often occurs in newborn infants, people over 5 years of age and people whose immune system is compromised.
Shock, if left untreated, is almost always fatal. When treated the outcome will depend on the cause, any other illness the patient might have, the amount of time that passes prior to the beginning of treatment and the type of treatment that is given. In the case of a massive heart attack or septic shock in an elderly patient the prognosis is not good. If you are with a person who is going into shock you should begin by keeping the person warm. Raise their legs slightly to help with the return of blood to the heart and stop any bleeding. Check the persons breathing often and turn their head to the side to prevent the inhalation of vomit. Under no circumstances give the person anything by mouth even if they express that they are thirsty or need to take medication. When medical help arrives they can assess the situation and decide if the persons condition will allow them to drink or take medication.