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  • Krisha McCoy, MS
Publication Type:




Shock is a condition that happens when the body does not get enough blood flow. It can impair the function of body organs. It is life-threatening and needs care right away.


Some causes of shock are:

  • Cardiovascular conditions, such as:
  • Trauma or spinal cord injury
  • Severe infections or systemic infection—sepsis
  • A severe allergic reaction
  • Poisoning
  • Loss of blood volume (hypovolemia)—from severe bleeding or severe dehydration
  • Heatstroke
  • Severe hypoglycemia

Risk Factors

Things that raise the risk of shock are:

  • Heart or blood vessel disease
  • Weak immune system
  • Severe allergies
  • Severe trauma
  • Diabetes


The symptoms of shock depend on the cause. Shock can lead to:

  • Weakness
  • Problems with thinking or changes in behavior
  • Decreased urination (peeing)

Shock can also cause:

  • Cool and clammy skin
  • Pale or mottled skin color
  • Slow heartbeat
  • Slow and shallow or fast and deep breathing
  • Dull eyes
  • Pupils of the eye are larger than normal
Symptom of Shock.

Dilated and Constricted pupilhttp://services.epnet.com/getimage.aspx?imageiid=75447544si55550379.jpgsi55550379.jpgNULLjpgsi55550379.jpgNULL\\hgfiler01a\intellect\images\si55550379.jpgNULL34NULL2008-12-10261400Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


A physical exam will be done. Tests may include:

  • Breathing assessment
  • Blood pressure measurement
  • Heart rate monitoring

Other tests may be done to look for a cause. Tests may be:

  • Blood tests and cultures
  • ECG
  • Imaging tests


Shock will need emergency care. Treatment will help to improve blood flow and stop further damage. Care may include:

  • Fluids or blood will be given through an IV. It will help to get blood pressure and heart rate to safer levels.
  • The airway may need to be supported if there are breathing problems. Oxygen or other treatment will also make breathing easier.
  • Medicine can help to increase blood pressure and blood flow. Other medicine can make the heart beat more forcefully.
Insertion of IV for Transfusion or Medications.

IV_insertionhttp://services.epnet.com/getimage.aspx?imageiid=69136913IV_insertion.jpgIV_insertionNULLjpgIV_insertionNULL\\hgfiler01a\intellect\images\IV_insertion.jpgNULL66NULL2008-02-042394006913_165038Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Other treatment may be needed to treat the cause of shock.


To help reduce the risk of shock:

  • Prevent or control heart or vascular disease.
  • Avoid activity that puts you at risk of falls or other injuries.
  • Carry an epinephrine pen with you if you have a severe allergy.
  • Follow care plan for health issues, such as diabetes.




  • Cardiogenic shock. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/cardiogenic-shock.
  • Cardiogenic shock. Cleveland Clinic website. Available at: https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diseases/17837-cardiogenic-shock.
  • Patel S, Holden K, et al. Shock. Crit Care Nurs Q. 2022;45(3):225-232.
  • The signs of hypovolemic shock. Health Guidance website. Available at: http://www.healthguidance.org/entry/12784/1/The-Signs-of-Hypovolemic-Shock.html. Accessed September 17, 2020.


  • Mark Arredondo, MD
Last Updated:

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.