Shock is a life-threatening condition that occurs when the body is not getting enough blood flow. Lack of blood flow means the cells and organs do not get enough oxygen and nutrients to function properly. Many organs can be damaged as a result. Shock requires immediate treatment and can get worse very rapidly. As many 1 in 5 people in shock will die from it.
The main types of shock include:
Shock can be caused by any condition that reduces blood flow, including:
Shock is often associated with heavy external or internal bleeding from a serious injury.
Toxic shock syndrome is an example of shock that is caused by an infection.
A person in shock has extremely low blood pressure. Depending on the specific cause and type of shock, symptoms will include one or more of the following:
Take the following steps if you think a person is in shock:
IF THE PERSON VOMITS OR DROOLS
In case of shock:
Call 911 or the local emergency number any time a person has symptoms of shock. Stay with the person and follow the first aid steps until medical help arrives.
Learn ways to prevent heart disease, falls, injuries, dehydration, and other causes of shock. If you have a known allergy (for example, to insect bites or stings), carry an epinephrine pen. Your health care provider will teach you how and when to use it.
Angus DC. Approach to the patient with shock. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 98.
Puskarich MA, Jones AE. Shock. In: Walls RM, Hockberger RS, Gausche-Hill M, eds. Rosen's Emergency Medicine: Concepts and Clinical Practice. 9th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2018:chap 6.
Smith SG, Schreiber MA. Shock, electrolytes, and fluid. In: Townsend CM Jr, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 21st ed. St Louis, MO: Elsevier; 2022:chap 4.
Reviewed By: Jesse Borke, MD, CPE, FAAEM, FACEP, Attending Physician at Kaiser Permanente, Orange County, CA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.