Some causes of shock are:

  • Cardiovascular conditions, such as:
  • Heart failure
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Trauma or spinal cord injury
  • Severe infections or systemic infection—sepsis
  • A severe allergic reaction
  • Poisoning
  • Loss of blood volume (hypovolemia)—from severe bleeding or severe dehydration
  • Heatstroke
  • Severe hypoglycemia

Risk Factors

Things that raise the risk of shock are:

  • Heart or blood vessel disease
  • Weak immune system
  • Severe allergies
  • Severe trauma
  • Diabetes



The symptoms of shock depend on the cause. Shock can lead to:

  • Weakness
  • Problems with thinking or changes in behavior
  • Decreased urination (peeing)

Shock can also cause:

  • Cool and clammy skin
  • Pale or mottled skin color
  • Slow heartbeat
  • Slow and shallow or fast and deep breathing
  • Dull eyes
  • Pupils of the eye are larger than normal
Symptom of Shock
Dilated and Constricted pupil
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A physical exam will be done. Tests may include:

  • Breathing assessment
  • Blood pressure measurement
  • Heart rate monitoring

Other tests may be done to look for a cause. Tests may be:

  • Blood tests and cultures
  • ECG
  • Imaging tests



Shock will need emergency care. Treatment will help to improve blood flow and stop further damage. Care may include:

  • Fluids or blood will be given through an IV. It will help to get blood pressure and heart rate to safer levels.
  • The airway may need to be supported if there are breathing problems. Oxygen or other treatment will also make breathing easier.
  • Medicine can help to increase blood pressure and blood flow. Other medicine can make the heart beat more forcefully.
Insertion of IV for Transfusion or Medications
IV insertion
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Other treatment may be needed to treat the cause of shock.


To help reduce the risk of shock:

  • Prevent or control heart or vascular disease.
  • Avoid activity that puts you at risk of falls or other injuries.
  • Carry an epinephrine pen with you if you have a severe allergy.
  • Follow care plan for health issues, such as diabetes.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.