How to Diagnose Shock

Wounded soldiers frequently suffer from a state of shock.
Wounded soldiers frequently suffer from a state of shock. (Image: Public Domain, Wikimedia Commons)

After suffering a severe trauma or even a terrible mental strain, many patients will go into shock. Shock is state of being that is difficult to completely define but that is largely characterized by a confused mental state, inability to function normally and a few physical symptoms. If you suspect that someone has entered a state of shock, it's vitally important that you diagnose him and treat the underlying cause immediately.

Look for visible signs of shock. This should be your first method when you suspect a diagnosis of shock, because visible symptoms are the most basic indicator that a patient is in shock. These signs include shaking or shivering, rapid or shallow breathing, a vacant expression and unusual behavior.

Check the patient's blood pressure. Once you have reason to believe that a patient may be in shock, check her blood pressure immediately. Low blood pressure, particularly a very low systolic reading, is a hallmark symptom of shock.

Measure the pulse to confirm your findings and diagnose shock. A patient in shock will normally have a rapid, weak pulse. If the pulse is noticeably altered in such a fashion, then it's extremely likely that the patient is in shock.

Check for other symptoms if the major indicators of shock aren't present. Other indicative symptoms include cold, clammy skin, appreciable lowering of measured urine output, confused mental state or unconsciousness and increased body temperature to the level of a fever.

Determine whether or not the patient is in shock after you have observed him and measured all applicable criteria.

Tips & Warnings

  • It's very important to talk to the patient and try to calm her while you're trying to diagnose her and determine whether she's in shock.
  • If you aren't sure whether a patient is in shock or not, it's always better to diagnose him as being in shock than to ignore the situation.
  • If a patient is determined to be in a state of shock, begin treatment immediately. Shock is a dangerous condition and can be life threatening if left untreated.

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