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Shock is defined as abnormal metabolism at the cellular level. Since it is not easy to directly measure cellular problems, the symptoms of shock are indirect measurements of cellular function. Shock is the end stage of all diseases, and symptoms will often be dependent on the underlying cause.
As the patient goes through the various stages of shock, vital signs change. In the early stages, the body tries to compensate by moving fluids around from within cells to the blood stream with an attempt to maintain blood pressure in a normal range. However, there may be a slight rise in the heart rate (tachycardia = tachy or fast + cardia or heart). For example, donating blood. A unit of blood (or about 10% of the blood volume) is removed, yet the body compensates well, except for a little lightheadedness, which is often resolved by drinking fluids. Another example is exercising and forgetting to drink enough fluids and feeling a little tired at the end of the day.
As the body loses the ability to compensate, the breathing rate gets faster and the tachycardia increases as the body tries to pack as much oxygen onto the remaining red blood cells as possible and deliver them to the cells. Unfortunately, blood pressure starts to drop (hypotension=hypo or low + tension= pressure) as compensation mechanisms fail.
Cells don't receive enough oxygen and the organs that they comprise begin to fail. All organs may be affected.
Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 5/24/2016
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