Shock is a life-threatening condition that occurs when the body is not getting enough blood flow. Lack of blood flow means that the cells and organs do not get enough oxygen and nutrients to function properly. Multiple organs can suffer damage as a result. Shock requires immediate medical treatment and can get worse very rapidly. As many 1 in 5 people who suffer shock will die from it.
The main types of shock include:
Shock can be caused by any condition that reduces blood flow, including:
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.
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:
Take the following steps if you think a person is in shock:
IF THE PERSON VOMITS OR DROOLS
Call 911 any time a person has symptoms of shock. Stay with the person and follow the first aid steps until medical help arrives.
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.
Jones AE, Kline JA. Shock. In: Marx JA, ,Hockberger RS, Walls RM, et al, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2013:chap 6.
Rivers EP. Approach to the patient in shock. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 106.
Updated by: Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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