Syncope is the medical term for fainting. Syncope occurs after a drop in heart rate or blood pressure, and may be triggered by stress, dehydration, or exhaustion. Recurrent syncope may be a warning sign of a heart condition. Contact your doctor to figure out the cause of your fainting and receive corresponding treatment.
Syncope results from a reduction in blood flow to the brain, which causes temporary loss of consciousness. Fainting is brief. Afterward, there is a complete recovery of consciousness. There are many potential causes of syncope, including heavy sweating, dehydration, blood loss, exhaustion, pain, fear, emotional stress, or standing up too quickly. Certain medications, alcohol or illegal drug use, and hyperventilation can also cause syncope. Other causes include a bowel movement, urination, coughing, and sitting or standing for prolonged periods of time.
Sometimes, syncope may be associated with neurally mediated syncope, a disorder that is more common in children and young adults. Fainting is caused by a drop in heart rate or blood pressure.
Syncope may be the sign of a serious underlying disorder in some cases. Syncope that occurs with irregular heartbeats, heart palpitations, or exercise may be related to a heart problem. Family history of recurrent syncope or sudden death may indicate that a person has a higher risk of cardiac-related syncope. Heart disease-related syncope can result in heart attack, stroke, or sudden death.
Prior to fainting, you may experience nausea, dizziness, weakness, lightheadedness, paleness, sweat, and a ringing in your ears. Sounds may seem to fade out and your vision may seem to become gray. Symptoms will last briefly, usually for a few seconds, before there is a temporary loss of consciousness. Although you may feel nauseated and sweaty, recovery from fainting is quick.
Your doctor will determine if you had a simple bout of fainting, a seizure, or a heart condition. You doctor will examine your nervous system, lungs, and heart before measuring your blood pressure while you are in different positions. If your doctor suspects that you have a heart problem, they will perform some cardiac tests, including a chest X-ray, echocardiogram, electrocardiogram, and exercise stress test.
Your doctor may also perform a tilt table testing, which checks for sudden drops in heart rate or blood pressure that cause syncope. During this procedure, you will be secured to a table that inclines to several positions over time. Your doctor will record your blood pressure and heart’s electrical activity.
People neurally mediated syncope may be treated with medication. A doctor may recommend that they eat a diet high in salt and drink plenty of fluids. When they feel the warning signs of fainting, they should sit or lie down. Wearing compression stocking may benefit circulation, as can orthostatic training exercises. In some cases, a patient may need a pacemaker to help regulate their heart function.
Follow your doctor’s recommendations carefully if you have neurally mediated syncope. Lie down and elevate your legs if you feel the warning signs of fainting. Attend all of your scheduled doctor’s appointments.
Consult with your doctor about your fainting triggers to help avoid them. A family history of recurrent syncope or sudden death causes a higher risk of syncope caused by a heart condition.
Prolonged syncope may result in a seizure. Fainting can also be a sign of a more serious condition like stroke or heart attack. Call an ambulance immediately if you suspect a stroke or heart attack.