This leaflet gives you information about orthostatic hypotension, advice about how to manage the symptoms and describes some of the treatments available.

What is orthostatic hypotension?

Orthostatic hypotension, sometimes known as postural hypotension, is a common problem affecting elderly people. It can also affect younger people who have conditions such as diabetes or Multiple Sclerosis. Orthostatic hypotension happens when your blood pressure drops too low when standing up from sitting or lying.

Symptoms

Typical symptoms include:

  • light-headedness
  • dizziness
  • darkening of vision
  • falls
  • blackouts

Why does it happen?

It may be due to:

  • not drinking enough fluids
  • certain medicines, such as those prescribed for high blood pressure, heart failure or depression
  • a problem with the autonomic nerves which help to control blood pressure in conditions such as diabetes, Multiple Sclerosis or Parkinson’s Disease

What can I do?

Do

  • drink plenty of water, juice or cordial
  • eat small frequent meals
  • get up slowly from your bed or chair
  • cross your legs or squeeze your thighs together when standing
  • increase the salt in your diet (but please check with your doctor first if you have high blood pressure)
  • raise the head of the bed slightly
  • sit or lie down if you feel lightheaded

Avoid

  • standing up quickly
  • standing for long periods of time
  • drinking alcohol
  • hot baths
  • hot environments
  • constipation

Treatments

Your doctor can:

  • review and if necessary, limit the amount of blood pressure/heart failure medications you are given
  • prescribe leg compression stockings or abdominal compression bands if appropriate
  • prescribe tablets to increase your blood pressure and avoid salt loss. This medication can cause side-effects and may not be appropriate if you have high blood pressure, fluid retention or heart failure

Contact

Syncope Clinic

Gloucestershire Royal Hospital

Tel 0300 422 5673

Monday to Friday, 9:00am to 4:00pm

Reference number GHPI0720_06_22
Department Care of the Elderly
Review due June 2025
BEST CARE FOR EVERYONE