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Symptoms and Signs of Shock

Doctor's Notes on Shock

Shock is defined as abnormal metabolism (usually not enough oxygen) at the cellular level; shock is considered the in stage of all diseases in the symptoms will vary with the underlying causes. This abnormal metabolism causes organs to begin to lose their ability to compensate. In general, when shock occurs, breathing rate gets faster and the heartbeats faster also. As the organs begin to decompensate, blood pressure frequently begins to drop. As body cells fail to get enough oxygen other signs and symptoms may develop such as confusion, chest pain, diarrhea, acute renal failure and the skin becomes clammy and pale. Then loss of consciousness, coma and/or death occurs if the underlying problem is not treated.

The causes of shock are many; however, the most basic underlying problem is that cells in one or more organs are deprived of oxygen so they cannot make the organ function normally. Some examples of underlying problems that may decrease oxygen delivery are as follows: large blood loss from trauma, GI bleeding or dehydration, the amount of oxygen in the air is decreased (high altitudes, carbon monoxide poisoning), lung injury (pneumonia, congestive heart failure, pulmonary edema, lung trauma), heart problems such as heart attack arrhythmia, pericarditis, inflammation of heart muscle. Any underlying cause of bleeding problems can cause shock including cancers, leukemia, bleeding from the uterus or during childbirth.

Medical Author:
Medically Reviewed on 3/11/2019


Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.