Information on symptoms of shock and the signs of shock.

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  1. What is Shock?
  2. Symptoms of Shock
  3. What Causes Shock?
  4. Help for Shock
  5. More Information on Shock

What is Shock?

The medical term shock refers to the organs and tissues of the body not receiving a sufficient flow of blood. As a result of the imbalance of oxygen supply and demand, a buildup of waste products occurs and can cause damage to the organs. This type of shock is known as physiological shock and can result in collapse, coma or even death if it is not treated immediately.

Often when people hear disturbing news about a loved one or have endured a traumatic experience, they also suffer from shock. This type of shock is usually referred to as psychological shock and occurs after a physically or emotionally harrowing incident. The state of mind is affected and in more severe cases, professional help may be required.

Treating shock immediately in the case of physiological shock can be life-saving. Treating symptoms of shock associated conditions immediately will prevent organ damage and death. In addition, incorporating healthy changes into your life can make a major difference in the way your body reacts to and deals with physiological shock symptoms.

Symptoms of Shock

The most common symptoms of shock include:

  • An extremely low blood pressure
  • Feeling weak or nauseous
  • Chest pain
  • Fast but weak pulse
  • Profuse sweating
  • Dizziness, faintness or light-headedness
  • Moist, clammy skin
  • Unconsciousness
  • Rapid, shallow breathing
  • Feeling anxious, agitated or confused
  • Blue lips and fingernails

Shock in Babies and Children

Diagnosing shock in babies and young children can be difficult in the case of frank hypotensive shock due to a weak or absent pulse; cold, blue extremities; and a gray or mottled appearance. However in the case of compensated shock, where the central blood pressure is preserved at the expense of peripheral end-organ perfusion, it is much harder to determine.

Also, babies and children have a remarkable ability to preserve their central blood pressure, as they attempt to protect their heart and brain in the case of many forms of shock while critically reducing perfusion to the extremities, gut, kidneys, and other end organs.

Stages of Shock

Stage 1: Initial Stage of Shock

The initial stage of shock is reversible, but does not show any obvious signs and symptoms that would indicate the body is entering a stage of shock. Within the body at this initial stage, cells begin to change due to problems with perfusion and oxygenation. Perfusion is the term used to describe the method used by the veins to deliver blood to capillary beds within body tissues. Without this nutritive blood and an adequate oxygen supply, the cells switch to anaerobic metabolism, producing pyruvic and lactic acid.

Stage 2: Compensatory Stage of Shock

During the compensatory stage of shock, the body tries to reverse the results of the initial stage. Physiological, neural, hormonal, and biochemical reactions are used by the body to correct the imbalances. One of these mechanisms is hyperventilation. During hyperventilation there is an increased rate of breathing which, in turn, may help to improve oxygen flow to the cells in order to neutralize the newly acidic conditions. Another mechanism used by the body is known as the catecholamine response. This response is triggered by hypotension, or low blood pressure, caused by the reduced volume of blood flow. Catecholamines are hormones released by the adrenal glands. These hormones aim to increase the body’s heart rate in an attempt to increase blood pressure. A third mechanism used in the compensatory stage of shock is known as the rennin-angiotensin response. During this response, a hormone called vasopressin is quickly released into the bloodstream. Vasopressin helps to retain fluid and triggers vasoconstriction.

Stage 3: Progressive Stage of Shock

If shock progress to the third stage before the initial cause is corrected, damage to the body is more severe and may even be irreversible. Cellular function deteriorates, anaerobic metabolism leads to an increase in metabolic acidosis, and the compensatory mechanisms are not able to maintain the balance required in order to protect the organs.

Stage 4: Refractory Stage of Shock

If the cause of shock cannot be fixed, the body will inevitably enter the last stage of shock known as the refractory stage. During this stage, the organs fail and lead to death. One of the most important factors in recognizing the different stages of shock is to prevent progression to this final stage.

What Causes Shock?

There are multiple causes of shock and symptoms depending on which type of shock you are dealing with.

Causes of Physiological Shock

Physiological (circulatory) shock can be caused by any condition that reduces the blood flow.

There are various types of physiological shock and symptoms include:

  • Cardiogenic shock occurs when the heart is severely damaged by heart attack or heart failure.
  • Hypovolemic shock occurs when the total volume of blood in the body drops below normal such as severe external or internal bleeding, dehydration, diabetes insipidus, kidney failure, extensive burns, or inflammation of the pancreas.
  • Hemorrhagic shock occurs as a result of hemorrhage due to physical trauma – e.g. motor vehicle collisions or penetrating injuries such as gunshots or knife wounds.
  • Neurogenic shock occurs specifically from trauma that leads to spinal cord injuries.
  • Septic shock occurs when bacterial infection causes toxic shock syndrome and blood pressure drops. Damage to the lungs causing acute respiratory distress syndrome can occur as can liver failure, kidney failure and coma.
  • Anaphylactic shock is caused by severe allergic reactions to things such as bee and wasp stings, nuts, shellfish, eggs, latex and certain medications, including penicillin.

Causes of Psychological Shock

  • Receiving disturbing news such as the death of loved one
  • Being involved in a traumatic event such as a car accident, or being the victim of crime

Psychological shock can disrupt your life, leaving you engrossed and preoccupied with the event or news that caused the shock. The individual may also have difficulty coping with day to day functioning such as personal relationships and work.

In some cases, an individual starts to experience psychological shock symptoms after the event actually occurred. This is known as ‘delayed shock’. Delayed shock symptoms can occur within hours or in some cases years of a traumatic event.

If symptoms do not improve and continue to persist, leaving the individual unable to return to normal life, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) may have developed.

The individual with psychological shock symptoms may be affected in the following ways:

  • Intrusion - the individual fixates on the event and news by playing it over and over again in his or her mind
  • Avoidance – the individual withdraws from normal activities and may resort to alcohol and drugs to numb the pain
  • Increased arousal – the individual feels ill-tempered and angry

Help for Shock

When someone goes into shock, treatment is needed immediately. Treating shock with the following guidelines to make a difference:

  • Call a doctor or emergency services for medical help immediately.
  • Check the person’s rate of breathing and circulation every 5 minutes. If the person is experiencing trouble breathing, begin CPR.
  • Lay the person flat on the back and raise the legs about 25 cm to help restore the blood pressure. If the person is conscious but has trouble breathing, place him or her in a sitting position.
  • Administer first aid treatment to wounds, injuries or illnesses.
  • Loosen tight clothing and keep person warm and comfortable.
  • Do not give the person food or liquids to prevent inhalation of vomit.

Emergency treatment would involve the person in shock being hospitalized. To treat him or her effectively, treating shock will include:

  • Temperature control such as cooling blankets or warming devices.
  • Give fluids and blood intravenously to improve the blood flow.
  • Extra oxygen is administered either by a tube in the nose, a face mask, or an endotracheal tube and ventilator. A ventilator is used if the patient has trouble breathing.
  • To deal with underlying conditions such as heart problems, drugs are administered or surgery may be performed. Bacterial infections will be treated with antibiotics.

If physiological shock is left untreated, it is usually fatal. Depending on the severity of the condition associated with shock and symptoms, some people do recover while others may need long-term care.

Natural Treatments for Physiological Shock

Physiological signs of shock always requires emergency medical treatment. This type of shock is best treated by a medical doctor or homeopath who would be able to do the necessary diagnostic tests and commence treatment aimed at stabilizing the patient.

More Information on Shock

Preventing Physiological Shock

Physiological Shock can be prevented by being aware of some of the physiological causes and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. These preventative strategies include:

  • Wear seatbelts and adhere to speeding limits because neurogenic shock is often as a result of motor vehicle accidents which lead to spinal injuries.
  • Reduce your risk of heart disease by following a healthy diet, exercising regularly, stop smoking and taking the appropriate medication to control symptoms of shock.
  • Carry an epinephrine pen if you suffer from allergies.
  • Learn basic first aid.
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