Lybrate Logo
Get the App
For Doctors
Book Appointment
Ask a Question
Plan my Surgery
Health Feed
Health Feed
Find Doctors

Shock: Signs, Causes, Types and Treatment

Last Updated: Sep 21, 2021

What is shock?

When the organs and the tissues of the body are not receiving proper flow of blood, then such a medical condition is known as shock. Shock deprives the flow of oxygen into various organs of the body and induces piling up of waste materials. Shock, when becomes very serious, can also cause death.

What are the 3 stages of shock?

There are three stages of shock are:

  • Stage I: In the first stage of shock, the blood flow becomes low. This situation is called perfusion. As a result, the heart starts beating faster, blood vessels throughout the body becomes smaller in diameter, and the kidney starts retaining fluid into the circulatory system. All these accumulate to increase blood flow into the significant organs and organ systems of the body.
  • Stage II: In the second stage of shock, the systems in the body cannot continue perfusion further, and other complications are noticed. Deprivation of oxygen into the brain and heart leads to disorientation of the patient and chest pain respectively.
  • Stage III: In the third stage of this disorder, the prolonged time of perfusion further deteriorates the patient’s conditions. The heart and the kidney almost stop functioning, cells and other organs also start malfunctioning. Finally, the person dies if proper treatment is not given on time.

What are the 4 types of shock?

There are Four types of shocks are:

  • Cardiogenic shock: In case of cardiogenic shock, inflammation of the heart muscles, heart attack, disturbances of the normal rhythmic heartbeat, fluid accumulation or clot in the heart are the common causes.
  • Hypovolemic shock: When a person suffers from hypovolemic shock, reasons behind it may be excess fluid loss, dehydration, excess urination, extensive burns, blockage in the intestine and inflammation of the pancreas. All these reasons lead to lesser volume of blood in the body.
  • Distributive shock:When your blood vessels lose their tone due to some conditions, it can cause distributive shock. The blood vessels become floppy and open that is not enough to supply blood pressure to your organs. There are a number of types of distributive shock which includes the following:
    • Septic shock: It can occur when any bacterial infection is allowed to stay in the body for a very long time without treatment. Bacteria produce toxins that spread throughout the body and damage the circulatory system.
    • Anaphylactic shock: This type of shock is a complication of a severe allergic reaction known as anaphylaxis. Allergic reactions occur when your body mistakenly treats a harmless substance as harmful which triggers a dangerous immune response. This type of shock is usually caused by allergic reactions to food, insect venom, medications, or latex.
    • Neurogenic shock: It is caused by damage to the central nervous system, usually a spinal cord injury. This causes blood vessels to dilate and skin feel warm and flushed. The heart rate slows, and the blood pressure drops very low.
  • Obstructive shock: Obstructive shock is a type of shock which occurs when blood can not get where it needs to go. A pulmonary embolism is one condition that may cause an interruption to blood flow. Conditions that can cause a buildup of air or fluid in the chest cavity can also lead to obstructive shock.

Which type of Shock is the most serious?

The types of Shock are:

  1. Hypovolemic Shock:

    This is the most common type of Shock and is typically experienced by a person after a car collision. Hypovolemic Shock is caused by rapid blood loss and results in an abnormally high heartbeat, faster respiration, and loss of oxygen.

  2. Neurogenic Shock:

    This type of Shock occurs because of spinal or nervous system trauma. Neurogenic Shock leads to collapsed organs due to irregular blood circulation.

  3. Cardiogenic Shock:

    This Shock occurs because of severe damage to the heart and usually ends in death.

  4. Septic Shock:

    also called blood poisoning, septic Shock occurs because of bacteria entering the bloodstream and causes damage to tissues and organs.

  5. Anaphylactic Shock:

    Anaphylactic Shock is a severe allergic response that can cause death. Anaphylactic Shock can be caused by anything a person is allergic to.

What are the signs and symptoms of shock?

Symptoms of shock include:

  • Cold hands and feet
  • Blue-tinged or pale skin
  • Weak pulse rate
  • Low blood pressure
  • Drowsiness
  • Fainting
  • Blue or gray lips or fingernails
  • Irritability
  • Anxiety
  • Dizziness
  • Enlarged pupils
  • Nausea or vomiting

Can Shock go away on its own?

Shock may be described through two aspects i.e medical and non-medical. It is a response to anxiety and fear when considered from the view of a non-medical aspect. Though the symptoms resemble those of medical shock, the state is usually described as a fright-flight condition that is transient or of short duration.

The person returns to his normal state of mind once the symptoms subside and the reasons causing the condition of fright-flight are eliminated. In this case, treatment is not needed and it gets resolved on its own. It does not require any emergency medical care or hospitalization.


How is Shock diagnosed?

Shock, which is a state of inadequate tissue perfusion, can be diagnosed by two methods which include clinical evaluation and test result trends. The first one is the most common method of diagnosis and is based upon clinical findings such as inadequate tissue perfusion, followed by signs such as tachycardia, tachypnea, and diaphoresis.

The second method is based upon the trends of laboratory findings, which involve both conditions i.e improving or worsening.

What is the treatment for shock?

Shock is a situation where the human body is unable to receive optimum amount of blood in the body. Therefore to treat such a disorder, the proper amount of blood flow should be assured to all the important internal organs as well as in blood vessels and tissues. Treatment of circulatory shock can be done by securing the airway through intubation if required, so as to decrease the breathing and guarding against respiratory arrest.

Administration of intravenous fluids into the patient’s body is strongly recommended. It means that a certain quantity of saline water is to be given to the person suffering from this disorder. If the patient remains in shock even after the very first treatment mentioned above, then packed red blood cells should be given in order to keep the haemoglobin more than 100 g/L. Artificial oxygen provision is also suggested for treatment of shock.

Certain medicines can be used to treat shock. Vasopressors are used to increase blood pressure along with the body fluids. Dopamine and norepinephrine are the most commonly used vasopressors to treat shock. Activated protein C is also used to manage circulatory shock that occurs due to bacterial infection. Sodium bicarbonate is also used to treat shock, but the pH of NaHCO3 has to be less than 7, otherwise it would not show proper outcomes. Certain antibiotics are also used to treat shock.

Certain mechanical supports are provided to the patients to treat circulatory shock. Intra-aortic balloon pumps (IBAP) are used to increase myocardial oxygen perfusion as well as cardiac output at the same time. Once the cardiac output is increased, the coronary blood flow increases, thereby increasing the myocardial oxygen. A ventricular assisting device (VAP) helps in cardiac circulation by assisting one of the ventricles or both of the together to induce an optimum blood flow mechanism in the body.

An artificial heart can be used to support the damaged human heart if necessary. If the normal heart of the patient is malfunctioning too much and cannot pump blood properly, an artificial one can be installed after removing the original heart. If the heart is unable to pump optimum amount of blood and is using the exact amount of oxygen that is required to maintain a healthy body, an Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation System (ECMO) can be installed to let the heart perform its task in a normal way.

Who is eligible for the treatment?

Shock is a state of medical emergency and needs to undergo hospitalization as early as possible. Some of the signs and symptoms that states the occurrence of the shock and evokes an emergency requirement for the treatment include the appearance of pale, cold, and clammy skin, anxiety, tachycardia, tachypnea, difficulty in breathing, palpitations, dry mouth, low urine output, nausea, vomiting, dizziness, confusion, and unconsciousness.

Who is not eligible for the treatment?

Shock may be described through two aspects i.e medical and non-medical. It is a response to anxiety and fear when considered from the view of a non-medical aspect. Though the symptoms resemble those of medical shock, the state is usually described as a fright-flight condition and is transient or of short duration.

The person returns to his normal state of mind once the symptoms subside and the reasons causing the condition of fright-flight are eliminated. In this case of non-medical shock, treatment is not needed and it gets resolved on its own. It does not require any emergency medical care or hospitalization.

What to do in a Shock?

Shock is an emergency medical condition that is associated with a decreased blood flow to the body organs and seeks urgent medical consultation and care. However, some basic steps which need to be done in this state to ensure the survival of the individual are such as:

  • Legs and feet should be elevated from the ground level.
  • Tight clothes need to be loosened.
  • The person in this state should not be allowed to eat or drink anything.
  • If any sign of life such as breathing or moving is not being shown, CPR should be begun.
  • The person should be kept still and not moved.
  • In case bleeding occurs, continuous pressure using a cloth should be kept applied to the particular region.
  • In case vomiting occurs, the body should be turned to prevent choking.

Should I go to urgent care for Shock?

Shock is a state of the body in which a decreased blood flow to an organ leads to cellular damage, followed by the failure of that specific organ. It is an emergency medical condition that requires the need for hospitalization and urgent care or consultation.

This state of emergency care includes some of the basic steps which need to be taken immediately so as to ensure the survival of the affected individual.

Those steps include lying down of the individual followed by elevating the legs up to 12 inches from ground level, beginning the CPR as soon as possible, the person should be made to feel warm and comfortable, treatment must be started in case of any injuries and some tests such as blood tests, urine tests, CT scan, and X-rays need to be done at the earliest.

Are there any side effects?

Vasopressin used can be sometimes harmful for the patient who is suffering from shock. There is a risk of having arrhythmia due to consumption of vasopressin. The usage of various electronic devices in trying to cure this disorder can lead to other problems.

The use of IBAP can lead to ischemia, occlusion of renal artery leading to kidney failure, cerebral embolism, infection and other problems. The use of VAD also has various side effects. It can lead to infections, heart failure, viral transmission and blood clotting leading to stroke. The usage of ECMO also has side effects like neurological injuries, heparin induced thrombocytopenia, intra-ventricular haemorrhage in children is quite common.

What are the complications of Shock?

The complications of Shock are:

  1. Cardiogenic Shock:
    • Heart muscle damage
    • Very slow heartbeats
    • Irregular heartbeats
  2. Obstructive Shock:
    • Pneumothorax
    • Cardiac tamponade
    • Hemothorax
  3. Distributive Shock:
    • Flushing
    • Loss of consciousness
    • Reduced blood pressure
  4. Hypovolemic Shock:
    • Organ damage
    • Heartattack
    • Gangrene of legs and arms

Can pain put you into Shock?

A person may experience Shock in extreme pain, this type of Shock is called neurogenic Shock. It is caused by the overexcitation of the parasympathetic nervous system, which results in reduced heartbeats, pulse, and a drop in blood pressure. A person going into Shock due to extreme pain may experience irregular breathing, fatigue, excessive sweating, dizziness, dilated pupils, confusion, and weak yet rapid pulse.

What are the post-treatment guidelines?

The post-treatment guidelines for the treatment of the problem of shock are to see that the patient is having a proper blood circulation in the body. For that, the patient is to be taken for regular check-ups to the doctor. Checking the blood pressure should be done regularly, and the pressure should not be allowed to fall.

Urine tests and blood tests should be done regularly to keep a check on the body fluids; which cannot be allowed to become acidic in nature. If electronic devices are installed within the body of the patient, those should be also under regular check, as external devices to cure a person can also create problems within the body.

How long does it take to recover?

The shock occurring in body is a disorder that can be treated if the blood pressure and blood supply is kept optimum. This job is done by inducing a few external things into the body. But it is to be noted that there is no permanent recovery from the problem of shock.

The patient has to be kept under supervision throughout his/her life, especially if an external electronic device, say an artificial heart is installed within their body, then the patient may be released from the hospital within 5 to 10 days after the device has been installed, but needs to stay under constant supervision.

How long does Shock last?

Shock lingers as long as medical attention is not received, it does not go away on its own. Delay in medical attention may lead to weeks of hospitalization and in severe cases organ failure and death.

What to eat in Shock?

To recover from shock, it is quite important to de-stress the mind from anxiety and the state of shock. Hence there are some recommended foods and food habits that ease the symptoms of shock and help to get relief from it. Those include:

  • Nutritious and easily digestible food items such as soups, stews, potatoes, and bakes.
  • Intake of sleep-inducing teas such as Artemis deep sleep tea which allows better sleep.
  • Incorporation of vitamins and minerals in the diet which mainly include magnesium sources as well as vitamin c sources.
  • Water intake should be increased to prevent dehydration.
  • Caffeine intake should be reduced as it affects the sleep cycle and evokes the symptoms of anxiety.

What not to eat in Shock?

Since food is well known to play a healing role in the state of shock, it is quite important for us to know about the foods which are prohibited in such conditions so as to ensure the betterment of the affected individual. Some of those foods and food habits that prevent any food-related deterioration in the condition of shock include:

  • Intake of foods that are difficult to digest should be avoided.
  • Raw sugar intake is also not recommended.
  • Consumption of raw foods such as raw salads and raw veg should be restricted in one’s diet.
  • Heavy foods such as meat and high-fat meals must be avoided.
  • Caffeine intake in the form of beverages such as coffee should be consumed in fewer amounts.

Should you give water to a person in Shock?

A person experiencing Shock should not be given water or anything to drink as they may vomit and choke. In case, a person in Shock starts choking, turn them gently to their side and drain the fluid out through the mouth. If a person is dehydrated or in need of fluid, it should only be given by a medical professional through an IV line.

What is the price of the treatment in India?

The treatment of shock that involves fluid intake and medicines are not costly at all. However, the cost of device installation to treat shock can vary between Rs. 3,90,000 to Rs.7,80,000 in India. This treatment is available in the leading hospitals of various metropolitan cities in India.

Are the results of the treatment permanent?

The treatment of problems of shock using mere medicines and fluids provides temporary relief. However, once the devices are installed in a person, he/she has to use it throughout life. With the aid of them, the affected person can survive properly and lead a normal life.

What are the alternatives to the treatment?

Certain careful measures can be taken by the affected person at home. The affected person’s airway, breathing and circulation can be checked every 2 minutes. The person should not be allowed to eat or drink anything when the shock occurs.

The person should be allowed to wear loose fitting clothes. Also, the best way to give an alternative treatment is to prevent shock from occurring. Whenever a person is suffering from immense dehydration due to diarrhoea or dysentery, he/she should be made to drink a lot of water. Food that produces blood should be taken regularly.

Physical Exercises for the people suffering from Shock:

Physical activities and specific exercises are advisable post-recovery for patients who have suffered any kind of shock. Some of the preferable exercises may include relaxation exercises such as yoga and meditation, light physical exercise, brisk walking, and physiotherapy.

  • Yoga and meditation is the best possible way to relieve stress in people who have gone through the condition of shock. It aids in reducing anxiety and helps to overcome the fear of symptoms. Brisk walking is important as it promotes movement of the joints and muscles that had been stopped or decreased during the treatment phases. It also refreshes and lightens up the mind which is needed for the revival.
  • Light physical exercises include warm-up exercises such as moving the joints of wrists and hands along with toes and ankles or moving the neck joint and shoulders, which may be done while sitting.
  • Physiotherapy is preferred in cases when the patient has faced an injury due to a fall or imbalance while in a state of shock. Pain in bones and muscles is effectively relieved through physiotherapy exercises under the supervision of a trained physiotherapist.
Summary: Shock is a life-threatening condition. It occurs when the body doesn't get sufficient blood flow. Insufficient blood flow means organs and cells do not get enough oxygen and nutrients to function properly. It may damage the organs. The major symptom of shock is low blood pressure. It requires immediate treatment.

Popular Questions & Answers

View All

Hello doctor I have been taking afoglip m 500 m...


Dr. Prabhakar Laxman Jathar


Hello, thanks for the query. Madam, I have gone through the details mentioned. It is good to know...

Good day. Recently ivr been having high anxiety...


Mr. Saul Pereira


The medication you are on is good for depression with anxiety. Please don't change your dosage or...

Pranaast cream also used for same purpose. My f...


Dr. Abhaya Kant Tewari


Hello, The best treatment for tingling and numbness because of diabetes in legs is very good cont...

Hi Dr. Good day I have a health issue since man...


Dr. Abhaya Kant Tewari


Dear wilson, It is quite likely that you are having Diabetic peripheral neuropathy ( nerves are g...

I am having severe heart palpitations, panic at...


Dr. P K Sukumaran


Stress patients worry too much. Stress in today’s day & age where stress is high, feelings of fru...

Table of content

Content Details
Profile Image
Written ByDr. Arun Sharma MBBS,MS - General Surgery,MCh - Neuro SurgeryNeurology
Need more help 

15+ Years of Surgical Experience

All Insurances Accepted

EMI Facility Available at 0% Rate

Find Neurologist near me


Ask a free question

Get FREE multiple opinions from Doctors

posted anonymously

Having issues? Consult a doctor for medical advice