Health Care and Fainting

- September 23, 2016
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Have you ever passed out, or fainted? What caused it, and did you get a doctor to help you with a possible diagnosis? Do you remember what happened right before you blacked out, or is that memory still foggy? Was it caused by an accident or an illness? Have you had repetitive occasions of fainting spells? These are very common questions that you may hear from a doctor that examines you after you’ve fainted.

According to, fainting happens when you lose consciousness for a short amount of time because your brain isn’t getting enough oxygen. The medical term for fainting is syncope, but it’s more commonly known as “passing out.” A fainting spell generally lasts from a few seconds to a few minutes. They have listed 41 possible scenarios that can lead to this situation. Read more at this site: .

Fainting can happen to anyone at any age. When someone faints, it's usually because changes in the nervous system and circulatory system cause a temporary drop in the amount of blood reaching the brain. When the blood supply to the brain is decreased, a person loses consciousness and falls over. After lying down, a person's head is at the same level as the heart, which helps restore blood flow to the brain. So the person usually recovers after a minute or two, according to

Fainting is pretty common in teens. The good news is that most of the time it's not a sign of something serious. More details are available at this site: .

When you faint, you not only lose consciousness, you also lose muscle tone and the color in your face, according to the NY Times. Before fainting, you may also feel weak, nauseated, and have the sense that your vision is constricting (tunnel vision) or noises are fading into the background. Fainting may occur while or after you:

Cough very hard
Have a bowel movement (especially if you are straining)
Have been standing in one place for too long
Fainting can also be related to:
Emotional distress
Severe pain

Other causes of fainting can be attributed to these events:
Certain medicines, including those used for anxiety, depression, high blood pressure, and allergies (these drugs may cause a drop in blood pressure)
Drug or alcohol use
Low blood sugar
Sudden drop in blood pressure (such as from bleeding or being severely dehydrated)
Standing up very suddenly from a lying position

Less common but more serious reasons for fainting include heart disease (such as abnormal heart rhythm or heart attack) and stroke. These conditions are more likely in persons over age 65. More info on fainting can be found at this website: .

According to the American Heart Association, Some forms of syncope suggest a serious disorder:
Those occurring with exercise.
Those associated with palpitations or irregularities of the heart.
Those associated with family history of recurrent syncope or sudden death.

What is neurally mediated syncope? Neurally mediated syncope (NMS) is called also neurocardiogenic, vasovagal, vasodepressor or reflex mediated syncope. It's a benign (and the most frequent) cause of fainting. However, life-threatening conditions may also manifest as syncope. NMS is more common in children and young adults, although it can occur at any age. NMS happens because blood pressure drops, reducing circulation to the brain and causing loss of consciousness.

Typical NMS occurs while standing and is often preceded by a sensation of warmth, nausea, lightheadedness and visual "grayout." If the syncope is prolonged, it can trigger a seizure. Placing the person in a reclining position will restore blood flow and consciousness and end the seizure. More details are located here:

According to this website, , before fainting, you may feel lightheaded, dizzy, like the room is spinning, sick to your stomach. You may also have blurry vision or a hard time hearing. If you feel like you're going to faint, lie down. If you can't lie down, sit and bend forward with your head between your knees. This helps get the blood flowing to your brain. Wait until you feel better before trying to stand up. When you stand up, do so slowly.

Your doctor will probably ask you about what was happening or what you were doing when you fainted. He or she may ask you for details about how you felt right before and right after you fainted. Your doctor will probably also want to examine you and may perform some tests to find out why you fainted.

If you have a history of fainting, follow your health care provider's instructions for how to prevent fainting, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMMC). For example, if you know the situations that cause you to faint, avoid or change them. You can also take immediate treatment steps when someone else has fainted:

Check the person's airway and breathing. If necessary, call 911 and begin rescue breathing and CPR.
Loosen tight clothing around the neck.
Raise the person's feet above the level of the heart (about 12 inches).
If the person has vomited, turn him or her onto their side to prevent choking.
Keep the person lying down for at least 10 to 15 minutes, preferably in a cool and quiet space. If this is not possible, sit the person forward with the head between the knees.

Call 911 if the person who fainted:

Fell from a height, especially if injured or bleeding.
Does not become alert quickly (within a couple of minutes).
Is pregnant.
Is over age 50.
Has diabetes (check for medical identification bracelets).
Feels chest pain, pressure, or discomfort.
Has a pounding or irregular heartbeat.
Has a loss of speech, vision problems, or is unable to move one or more limbs.
Has convulsions, a tongue injury, or a loss of bladder or bowel control.

Even if it is not an emergency situation, you should be seen by a provider if you have never fainted before, if you faint often, or if you have new symptoms with fainting. Call for an appointment to be seen as soon as possible. More info on fainting is at this website: .

Fainting is usually temporary situation, but it may be a symptom of a more serious medical condition. For serious syncope episodes, get immediate medical attention. At a minimum, consult your family physician or a healthcare professional when you have any fainting occurrence. It pays to be aware of your health and any potential problems for any reason.

Until next time.

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