Most of us have started a story with “I was so shocked to hear…”, but it is a term we use loosely, as we are normally referring to emotional shock. The truth is, the majority of us haven’t experienced real medical shock. Shock usually follows a trauma to the body, through injury or illness, or an allergic reaction. Complications can occur rapidly if the initial shock is not treated as soon as possible.
Shock is a serious medical condition caused by low blood pressure or insufficient blood flow throughout the body, and when shock is suspected it needs to be addressed immediately.
There are several types of shock including:
- cardiogenic shock
- hypovolemic shock
- anaphylactic shock
- septic shock
- neurogenic shock
Treatment of shock differs according to cause and severity. The causes of medical shock include internal or external bleeding (rapid loss of blood), heart failure, dehydration, infections, spinal injuries, burns, severe vomiting or diarrhoea (rapid loss of electrolytes) and severe allergic reaction. Shock (or rather the symptoms of shock) is usually treated by replenishing fluids intravenously to bring up the patient’s blood pressure. Doctors may also administer medication like epinephrine or dopamine to ensure that the vital organs are getting enough blood flow.
- Septic shock (caused by infection) is treated by administering antibiotics, based on the causal agent of the infection.
- Anaphylactic shock is treated by administering medications such as epinephrine, diphenhydramine or steroids.
- Cardiogenic shock can be treated with surgery or medications, depending on the underlying cause which needs to be determined before treatment can be administered.
- Hypovolemic shock is usually treated with fluids in minor cases, but in severe cases of blood loss it is treated with multiple transfusions. In the case of the latter, the cause of the bleeding needs to be identified so that the bleeding can be stopped.
- Neurogenic shock is the most difficult to treat. Injury to the spinal cord may be irreversible and can affect other bodily functions. In the case of a spinal cord injury, the first line of treatment is immobilization, followed by the administration of anti-inflammatory medicines or steroids to prevent further injury.
The symptoms of shock include:
- low blood pressure
- rapid or shallow breathing
- a rapid or weak pulse
- a feeling of weakness
The severity of the symptoms will also differ due to the cause of the shock, but nevertheless, the symptoms need to be addressed immediately. If the symptoms are addressed immediately, in most cases additional complications can be prevented.
If any of the aforementioned symptoms are experienced after an injury or illness, seek medical attention immediately.
As it is the start of a new year, it is important to live a healthy lifestyle and exercise regularly to look after your long-term heart health. In this way you are supporting your body as shock can’t always be prevented, so it is better to be prepared.