FAINTING

  • A sudden, brief loss of consciousness and posture caused by decreased blood flow to the brain also called syncope (pronounced SIN-ko-pee).
  • It is a common problem, accounting for 3% of emergency room visits and 6% of hospital admissions. A person may feel faint and lightheaded (presyncope) or lose consciousness (syncope).
  • Can be caused by:
    • Heart problems such as irregular heart beats
    • Seizures
    • Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
    • Anemia (a deficiency in healthy oxygen carrying cells)
    • Problems with how the nervous system (the body’s system of nerves) regulates blood pressure.
  • May be familiar and while fainting may indicate presence of a ceratin medical condition, it may occur in healthy individuals as well.
  • The elderly may suffer serious injuries from falls when they faint.
  • Most episodes are very brief and in most cases, the individual who has fainted regains complete consciousness within just a few minutes.

Depending on the cause of your fainting spell, you may have some or all of these symptoms before or during the episode:

  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Sweating
  • Blurred vision, seeing spots
  • Headache
  • Sensation that the room is moving
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Paleness
  • Tingling or numbness of fingertips and around lips
  • Bluish cast to the skin
  • Shortness of breath
  • Incontinence (involuntary urination or defecation)

DIAGNOSIS

Physician may do/request:

  • History & Physical Exam
    • The following questions may be asked:
      • Do these episodes come on suddenly or gradually?
      • Are you standing, sitting, or lying down when you faint?
      • Do you notice any other symptoms?
      • How long does the episode last?
      • Do you return to normal quickly after fainting, or are you momentarily confused?
    • An attempt to reproduce the symptoms may be done
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG)
    • Measurement of the electrical activity of the heart to look for heart arrhythmias
  • Exercise stress test
  • Holter monitor
  • Echocardiogram
  • Tilt-table test
    • Some people have preliminary symptoms of fainting or actually do faint from having their heads and bodies tilted to about 60 or 70 degrees due to the rapid drop in blood pressure and/or heart rate. As soon as the person is placed on his back again, blood flow and consciousness are restored.
  • Electroencephalogram (EEG)
    • Records the activity of your brain waves; Done when seizure is the suspected cause.

 

RECOMMENDED MEDICATIONS

Things to do if someone faints:

  • If he or she is sitting, carefully support them in a bent position, with their head between their knees.
  • If he or she is lying down, position them on their back and raise their feet higher than their head. Turn their head to the side, so that their tongue does not accidentally block their breathing and so that any vomit will not cause choking. You may try reviving them by putting a cold, wet washcloth on their face or neck. If they feel cold to the touch, cover them with a blanket.
  • Once they regain consciousness, do not allow someone who has fainted to get up immediately. Elevate the person’s feet. If he or she was lying down, wait several minutes before asking them to sit up. Ask them to sit for several minutes before standing. Then be prepared to support them in case they faint again when they stand.

If you suffer from episodes of fainting, the type of treatment your doctor offers will depend on the cause of your fainting spells and how often you experience them.

  • Infrequent non-heart related fainting may not need to be treated.
  • Certain medications may be given to manage an underlying problem, or if you have an irregular heartbeat you may require a pacemaker
  • In certain instances, you may be asked to wear support hose that help keep your blood pressure in balance or to increase your salt intake, which increases blood volume.

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