Shock is a life-threatening condition that occurs when the body is not getting enough blood flow. This can damage multiple organs. Shock requires immediate medical treatment and can get worse very rapidly.
Major classes 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:
IF THE PERSON VOMITS OR DROOLS
When to Contact a Medical Professional
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.
Once someone is already in shock, the sooner shock is treated, the less damage there may be to the person's vital organs (such as the kidney, liver, and brain). Early first aid and emergency medical help can save a life.
Jones AE, Kline JA. Shock. In: Marx JA, ed. Rosen’s Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 7th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby Elsevier; 2009:chap 4.
Parrillo JE. Approach to the patient with shock. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 107.
Maier RV. Approach to the patient with shock. In: Fauci AS, Harrison TR, eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine. 17th ed. New York, NY: McGraw Hill; 2008:chap 264.
Review Date: 1/10/2010
Reviewed By: Jacob L. Heller, MD, MHA, Emergency Medicine, Virginia Mason Medical Center, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
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