Orthostatic Hypotension

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What is orthostatic hypotension?

Orthostatic hypotension is a condition in which your blood pressure suddenly drops when you stand up from a seated or lying position. Hypotension means low blood pressure.

Symptoms of orthostatic hypotension may include:

  • Dizziness or lightheadedness when standing up
  • Blurred vision
  • Weakness
  • Temporary loss of consciousness (syncope)
  • Nausea
  • Difficulty concentrating

    It can happen occasionally or be a chronic condition. Orthostatic hypotension can have many causes.

    Normally, when you stand up, your blood pressure decreases because blood is pooled in your legs. Special cells typically sense a change in blood pressure and adjust the heart rate to pump more blood and stabilize blood pressure. A lesion or damage to this process can cause orthostatic hypotension.

    Other causes may include:

    • Dehydration
    • Prolonged bed rest
    • Heart problems
    • Thyroid conditions
    • Diabetes or other diseases
    • An excessive intake of diuretics, vasodilators, or other types of drugs

      Risk factors for orthostatic hypotension include being age 65 or older, certain diseases, some medications, pregnancy, and alcohol use. In older people, the condition may indicate an increased risk of stroke, heart attack, or heart failure.

      Primary orthostatic hypotension is a rare form that is caused from disorders that affect the autonomic nervous system (the part of the nervous system that automatically controls functions such as breathing, heartbeat, and digestion), such as multiple system atrophy (which affects the autonomic nervous system and movement), and dysautonomia (in which the nerves of the autonomic nervous system are damaged). 

      Diagnosis includes lab tests, monitoring blood pressure, and various tests to check the heart's pumping action and any rhythm changes.

      Treatment is aimed at finding the cause of the disorder. Some cases can be effectively treated by adding, changing, or adjusting medications, drinking more water, and adjusting diet. Some symptoms may be reduced by wearing compression stockings. For prolonged bed rest, treatment can involve sitting up with increasing frequency each day.

      Learn About Clinical Trials
      Clinical trials are studies that allow us to learn more about disorders and improve care. They can help connect patients with new and upcoming treatment options.

      How can I or my loved one help improve care for people with orthostatic hypotension?

      Consider participating in a clinical trial so clinicians and scientists can learn more about orthostatic hypotension and related disorders. Clinical research uses human volunteers to help researchers learn more about a disorder and perhaps find better ways to safely detect, treat, or prevent disease.

      All types of volunteers are needed—those who are healthy or may have an illness or disease—of all different ages, sexes, races, and ethnicities to ensure that study results apply to as many people as possible, and that treatments will be safe and effective for everyone who will use them.

      For information about participating in clinical research visit NIH Clinical Research Trials and You. Learn about clinical trials for people with orthostatic hypotension at ClinicalTrials.gov, which provides information about ongoing and completed federal and privately supported clinical trials.

      Where can I find more information about orthostatic hypotension?

      The following organizations may provide more resources:

      Genetic and Rare Diseases (GARD) Information Center


      Order publications from the NINDS Catalog
      The NINDS Publication Catalog offers printed materials on neurological disorders for patients, health professionals, and the general public. All materials are free of charge, and a downloadable PDF version is also available for most publications.