Lightheadedness and black spots in the vision can be symptoms of hypotension in teens. Periodic drop in blood pressure or low blood pressure in otherwise healthy teens is not a cause of concern. Some may get hypotension while changing body positions, such as standing or sitting from a lying position. However, it is recommended to evaluate frequent hypotension in teens since it can be due to underlying conditions (1).
Read on to know the causes, symptoms, treatment, and preventive measures for hypotension in teens and when to seek medical care for fainting spells.
What Is Low Blood Pressure In Teens?
Low blood pressure happens when the blood pressure (BP) levels are less than normal. The normal blood pressure for a teenager is around 110/70mmHg (2). (BP is measured in millimeters of mercury denoted as mmHg and features two numbers: one that indicates the upper value (systolic) followed by the lower (diastolic) value.)
In children aged ten years or less, blood pressure lower than 90/50mmHg is defined as low blood pressure or hypotension (3).
Low blood pressure can be categorized into three types, the symptoms of which can range from mild to severe.
- Neurally mediated hypotension (NMH): It occurs when the child stands for a long time or encounters an upsetting or scary situation. It causes dizziness. However, children usually outgrow NMH (4).
- Orthostatic hypotension: It occurs while standing up suddenly from a sitting or lying position. It happens when the body is unable to adjust to the sudden change in the blood flow. However, the blood pressure will be back to normal after a few seconds (5).
- Severe hypotension: It can develop due to severe infections, allergic reactions, severe blood loss due to an injury, or a shock. Severe hypotension can cause complications by preventing the blood from reaching the brain, thus making it a life-threatening condition. In such cases, immediate medical attention is necessary (6).
What Are The Symptoms Of Low Blood Pressure In Teenagers?
Most symptoms of hypotension may be recurrent but don’t usually last for a long time. Watch out for the following symptoms, and consult a doctor if they persist (6):
- Blurred vision or black out
- Feeling weak
- Nausea or vomiting
There could be various reasons for low blood pressure in teens.
What Causes Low Blood Pressure In Teens?
A drop in the blood pressure level could be due to several factors. Underlying health issues or the lifestyle can be a reason.
Common causes include:
- Low intake of salts and fluids
- Emotional stress
- Standing in an upright posture for a long time and in a warm environment like a hot bath (7)
- Severe iron deficiency anemia (8)
- Drinking alcohol (teenagers) (9)
- Prolonged bed rest (orthostatic hypotension) (10)
If your child’s doctor diagnoses hypotension due to the factors mentioned above, then it may be addressed with certain lifestyle changes.
However, there are a few uncommon causes for hypotension in children, which might indicate an underlying medical condition.
- Hypovolemia (decrease in the amount of blood in the body) due to excess use of diuretics, vasodilators)
- Addison’s disease (a condition where adrenal glands do not produce enough hormones)
- Sudden loss of blood
- Severe infection
- Allergic reaction (anaphylaxis)
- Heart diseases and changes in heart rhythm (6)
Low Blood Pressure In A Teenage Girl
Sometimes, teenage girls tend to have hypotension and episodes of unconsciousness during menstruation. This could be triggered due to pain or heavy bleeding during menstruation, or due to vasovagal syncope.
Vasovagal syncope (VVS) is a reflex disorder that leads to transient loss of consciousness. This is characterized by symptoms, such as acute visual disturbance, auditory disturbance, cognitive slowing, followed by hypotension with lightheadedness and loss of consciousness. However, studies found that the severity of lightheadedness changes during the menstrual cycle and was found to be similar in both VVS patients and healthy individuals.
A few changes in lifestyle, such as taking adequate fluids and salts plus moderate exercise, can help manage this condition. However, if your teenager is having frequent episodes of lightheadedness during her periods, then it is best to schedule an appointment with a gynecologist.
Observe the symptoms to know if everything is alright with the child. The next section talks about diagnostic methods for low blood pressure in children.
How Is It Diagnosed?
The doctor will begin the diagnosis by checking the teen’s medical and family health history. This is followed by a physical examination and a few tests, including cardiac examinations.
- Auscultation method: It is the preferred method for checking blood pressure, wherein the sound from the heart is heard using a stethoscope. It requires a cuff that fits the child’s upper arm (12).
- Blood tests: If anemia is suspected to be the reason for low blood pressure in the child, then a blood test like hemoglobin is done. Low blood sugar could also cause hypotension, which can be evaluated through the blood test.
- Electrocardiography: It is a standard screening tool used for detecting cardiac abnormalities in children and adolescents. The heart rate and the rhythm are evaluated through this diagnostic approach, which is typically used in the diagnosis of syncope that benign NMH can cause (13).
- Tilt table test: If a child complains of dizziness for unknown reasons, then this test is done. During the test, the child has to lie on a table that tilts from a horizontal to a vertical or upright position. The doctor checks the child’s reaction when the table is tilted, to diagnose orthostatic hypotension (14) (15).
Based on the diagnosis, your doctor will suggest the appropriate treatment for hypotension.
Treatment For Low Blood Pressure
Low blood pressure is associated with mild symptoms and rarely requires any treatment. If hypotension is due to the medication that your child has been taking for any other health problem, then the doctor may change the medication, lower its dosage, or advice to stop using it.
If your child is diagnosed with NMH, then the doctor suggests changes to their lifestyle and advises you to provide adequate fluids, salt, and nutritional foods. If that doesn’t work, then medication is recommended. Pediatric patients with NMH rarely might be given drugs like beta-blockers and fludrocortisone. However, these both have shown mixed results in pediatric patients, hence caution is needed (13).
How To Prevent Low Blood Pressure In Teenagers?
If the child has mild symptoms of low blood pressure, then minor changes in the lifestyle might be enough to prevent any problems. Here are a few measures you may consider.
- Avoid dehydration – encourage them to take a lot of fluids.
- Use adequate salt in the diet.
- Make them eat a balanced diet to provide all the essential nutrients to the body.
- Tell them to avoid standing up suddenly from a sitting position.
- Let them eat smaller meals at regular intervals and cut down on the intake of carbohydrates.
- Ask them to wear compression stockings.
- If they have light-headedness or dizziness., let them lie down for a few minutes. with both feet at higher level than the body.
- Sitting down and putting the head between the knees will help get the blood pressure back to normal.
A proper diet, along with the above tips, can help manage low blood pressure better.
Diet For Low Blood Pressure In Teens
Sometimes, blood pressure drops due to the poor supply of essential nutrients in the body. A balanced diet can help replenish these nutrients and elevate the blood pressure level.
- Include vitamin B12-rich foods such as eggs and fortified cereals as they help prevent anemia. Eat egg in boiled or scrambled form.
- Foods such as asparagus and broccoli that are rich in folic acid also help in keeping anemia at bay (16).
- Teenage girls should take iron-rich foods like green leafy vegetables, beans, and lentils to compensate for the blood loss during menstruation.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Does low blood pressure mean dehydration in teens?
Low blood pressure does not mean dehydration. Dehydration is one of the potential factors that can result in low blood pressure in children (17).
2. What neurological disorders cause low blood pressure in teens?
Possible neurological conditions that can cause low blood pressure in teens include (18):
- Orthostatic hypotensionis a feeling of dizziness or lightheadedness when a person stands up suddenly. This is caused due to the decrease in the blood supply to the brain.
- Postprandial hypotensionis the drop in blood pressure after a meal caused by the changes in the pressure when digesting food.
- Afferent baroreflex failureis an instability in the blood pressure due to damage to the nerves that sense the blood pressure.
- Familial dysautonomia is a rare inherited condition that causes the blood pressure to fluctuate between too high and too low.
Low blood pressure in teens can occur due to poor lifestyle choices or other underlying medical conditions. In teenage girls, heavy menstrual flow can also lead to low blood pressure. Low blood pressure in teens rarely needs medical attention if there is no major underlying condition. Lifestyle changes, a better diet, physical activities, and medications when needed will help you manage low blood pressure in your teen. Keep monitoring your teen’s blood pressure and if you notice any sudden changes or unusual symptoms, report it to their healthcare provider.
Infographic: What To Do If A Teen Faints Due To Hypotension?
Fainting or syncope is common when the blood pressure is low. It can be said as a nervous system response after sensing low blood pressure in the blood vessels. Go through the infographic to know what to do when a teen faints due to hypotension.
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5. Julian M. Stewart, et al.; Pediatric Disorders of Orthostatic Intolerance; Pediatric Publications
6. Low blood pressure; Medline Plus; US National Library of Medicine
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16.Vitamin B12 and Folate Deficiencies; American Association for Clinical Chemistry
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18. Types of Autonomic Disorders; NYU Langone Health