Skip to main content
Avg ER Wait
Checking ER Wait Time
The feed could not be reached
TriStar Centennial Medical Center



Shock occurs when inadequate blood flow threatens the function of multiple organs. Shock is a potentially life-threatening condition. The sooner it is treated, the better the outcome. If you suspect someone is in shock, call for medical help right away.


Some causes of shock include:

  • Heart failure
  • Heart attack
  • Spinal cord injury
  • Infection of the blood—sepsis
  • Other severe infection
  • Allergic reaction
  • Poisoning
  • Loss of blood volume (hypovolemia)—this can be from severe bleeding or severe dehydration
  • Heatstroke
  • Trauma
  • Severe hypoglycemia
  • Stroke

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your chance of shock include:

  • Pre-existing heart or blood vessel disease
  • Impaired immunity
  • Severe allergies
  • Severe trauma
  • Diabetes


The symptoms of shock depend on the cause.

Symptoms may include:

  • Weakness
  • Altered mental status
  • Cool and clammy skin
  • Pale or mottled skin color
  • Decreased urination
  • Slow heartbeat
  • Slow and shallow or rapid and deep breathing
  • Lackluster (dull) eyes
  • Dilated pupils
Symptom of Shock
Dilated and Constricted pupil
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


A physical exam will be done.

Tests may include the following:

  • Breathing assessment
  • Blood pressure measurement
  • Heart rate monitoring
  • Other testing depending on the cause of shock
    • Blood tests and cultures
    • Electrocardiogram
    • Imaging studies


Treatment options include the following:

Breathing Resuscitation

If you are having trouble breathing, your doctor will clear your airway. Oxygen and breathing assistance may be provided if you need it.

Optimizing Blood Pressure and Heart Rate

You will receive an IV for fluids and/or blood transfusions. These will stabilize your blood pressure and heart rate.

Insertion of IV for Transfusion or Medications
IV insertion
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


You may be given vasopressors. These medications constrict your blood vessels to increase blood pressure. Drugs may also be used to increase your heart contractions.

Other medications may be used depending on the underlying cause.


To help reduce your chance of shock:

  • Prevent or control heart or vascular disease.
  • Avoid activities that put you at risk of falls or other injuries.
  • Carry an epinephrine pen with you if you have a severe allergy.
  • Manage conditions, such as diabetes, as advised by your doctor.

Revision Information

  • American College of Emergency Physicians

  • National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute

  • Canadian Association of Emergency Physicians

  • Canadian Red Cross

  • The signs of hypovolemic shock. Health Guidance website. Available at: Accessed November 23, 2015.

  • Explore cardiogenic shock. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: Updated July 1, 2011. Accessed November 23, 2015.

The health information in this Health Library is provided by a third party. TriStar Health does not in any way create the content of this information. It is provided solely for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical advice and is not intended to be a substitute for proper medical care provided by a physician. Always consult with your doctor for appropriate examinations, treatment, testing, and care recommendations. Do not rely on information on this site as a tool for self-diagnosis. If you have a medical emergency, call 911.