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Syncope

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

What is syncope?

Syncope is also called fainting or passing out. Syncope is a sudden, temporary loss of consciousness, followed by a fall from a standing or sitting position.

What causes syncope?

Syncope is caused by a decrease in blood flow to the brain. When blood flow to the brain decreases, oxygen to the brain also decreases. Any of the following conditions may cause syncope:

  • Heart conditions, such as aortic stenosis, or cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), may cause syncope.
  • Dehydration or certain medicines, such as blood pressure medicines, heart medicines, or antidepressants may cause syncope.
  • Problems with the blood vessels of the brain may cause syncope.
  • A rapid drop in blood pressure may cause syncope. This can happen after a body position change such as moving from a lying position to a sitting or standing position.
  • Reflexive reaction is a nervous system response that causes syncope. It can happen when you urinate or strain hard during bowel movements. It can also happen during forceful coughing or sneezing, or when you face a stressful or fearful situation. This is also called vasovagal syncope.

What signs and symptoms may occur before syncope?

  • Cold, clammy, and sweaty skin
  • Fast breathing and a racing, pounding heartbeat
  • Feeling more tired than usual
  • Feeling sick to your stomach
  • Headache, blurred vision, or double vision
  • Lightheadedness or dizziness
  • Tingling sensation or numbness

How is syncope diagnosed?

Your healthcare provider will examine you. He will ask if you have other medical conditions. He may order the following tests to find out what is causing your symptoms:

  • Blood tests may be done to find the cause of your syncope.
  • Telemetry is continuous monitoring of your heart rhythm. Sticky pads placed on your skin connect to an EKG machine that records your heart rhythm.
  • An echocardiogram is a type of ultrasound. Sound waves are used to show the structure and function of your heart.
  • A stress test may show the changes that take place in your heart while it is under stress. Stress may be placed on your heart with exercise or medicine. Ask for more information about this test.
  • A tilt table test checks to see what happens to your heart and your blood pressure when you change positions.

How is syncope treated?

Treatment depends on the cause of your syncope. To prevent syncope from happening again, you may need any of the following:

  • Medicines may be needed to treat any medical conditions that are causing your syncope. These may include medicines to help your heart pump strongly and regularly. Your healthcare provider may also make changes to any medicines that are causing syncope.
  • An increased intake of liquids and salt may be recommended. Liquids help to prevent dehydration. You may also need to increase your salt intake to keep your blood pressure from dropping too low and causing syncope.
  • Tilt training involves training yourself to stand for 10 to 30 minutes each day against a wall. This helps your body decrease the effects of posture changes and reduces the number of fainting spells.

What can I do to prevent syncope?

  • Sit or lie down right away if you feel faint or dizzy. Put your feet up higher than your head. This will get the blood flowing back to your heart and brain.
  • Move slowly and let yourself get used to one position before you move to another position. This is very important when you change from a lying or sitting position to a standing position. Take some deep breaths before you stand up from a lying position. Sudden movements may cause a fainting spell.
  • Move your legs often if you must sit or stand in one position for a long time. Do not lock your knees or cross your legs.
  • Avoid straining if you are constipated. Straining to have a bowel movement may cause you to faint. Walking is the best way to get your bowels moving. Eat foods high in fiber to make it easier to have a bowel movement. Good examples are high-fiber cereals, beans, vegetables, and whole-grain breads. Prune juice may help make bowel movements softer.
  • Do not exercise outside on a hot day.

When should I seek immediate care?

  • You are bleeding because you accidently hit your head after fainting.
  • You suddenly have double vision, difficulty speaking, numbness, and cannot move your arms or legs.
  • You have chest pain and trouble breathing.

When should I contact my healthcare provider?

  • You have another fainting spell.
  • You have a headache, fast heartbeat, or feel too dizzy to stand up.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your care. Learn about your health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your caregivers to decide what care you want to receive. You always have the right to refuse treatment. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2015 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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