Syncope is the medical term for fainting. It happens when your brain doesn't get enough blood flow and you lose consciousness. Usually a slow heart rate causes a drop in blood pressure, which reduces blood flow to the brain. In most cases, you recover within seconds or minutes. A small number of people, mostly the elderly, have episodes of fainting.
If you have slurred speech, or have trouble moving an arm or a leg after fainting, call for emergency help right away. This may be a sign of stroke.
Signs and Symptoms
Signs and symptoms that you might have before you faint include:
In addition to losing consciousness when you faint, you may also:
What Causes It?
Fainting often happens due to a simple, non-medical cause, such as:
Rarely, it may be the result of a health condition, such as:
Who Is Most At Risk?
Certain conditions or characteristics may put you at risk for fainting, such as:
What to Expect at Your Doctor's Office
You should see your doctor after fainting. Your doctor will:
This will help your doctor pinpoint why you fainted and rule out certain health conditions. If seizures are suspected, your doctor may also do a test called an electroencephalogram (EEG).
To avoid fainting.
If you feel like you are going to faint, lie down and raise your legs to keep blood flowing to your brain. If you can't lie down, sit down and put your head between your knees, stand with your legs crossed and thighs pressed together. This can also help keep blood from pooling in your legs.
Any serious underlying health condition should be treated. When a person faints:
A pregnant woman should lie on her left side to relieve pressure on the heart.
When an irregular heartbeat causes fainting, your doctor may prescribe medications such as beta-blockers or antiarrhythmics. Your doctor may also prescribe steroids (such as fludrocortisone) or salt tablets to help you control the amount of sodium and fluids in your body.
Surgical and Other Procedures
If fainting is caused by a heart condition, such as a slow or rapid heartbeat, you may need a pacemaker.
Complementary and Alternative Therapies
Although there are no specific treatments for fainting, a number of alternative therapies can help protect the heart and blood vessels. Fainting may be caused by a serious underlying health condition. So check with your doctor before taking any herbs or supplements. Always tell your doctor about the herbs and supplements you are using or considering using.
You may have warning signs before fainting. Hypnosis, deep breathing, relaxation techniques, and biofeedback may help you avoid fainting. These techniques may also help you control fainting related to regulation of your blood pressure.
Nutrition and Supplements
To stay healthy and avoid fainting:
These supplements may promote heart health:
The use of herbs is a time-honored approach to strengthening the body and treating disease. However, herbs can trigger side effects and interact with other herbs, supplements, or medications. For these reasons, take herbs with care and under the supervision of a health care provider.
Sometimes, fainting may be due to drops in a hormone called cortisol. Ask your doctor about testing for low cortisol. Some doctors may prescribe cortisol hormone supplements or use nutrients and herbs to get cortisol levels back to normal.
Before prescribing a remedy, homeopaths take into account a person's constitutional type -- your physical, emotional, and intellectual makeup. An experienced and certified homeopath will assess your individual constitution and symptoms, and then recommend remedies. Below are common remedies used for fainting or pre-fainting symptoms:
Acupuncture may help treat fainting. A clinical analysis of 102 serious cases of loss of consciousness reported that acupuncture helped in a large number of these cases.
Acupuncture does not often cause side effects or complications. Some people may faint during acupuncture treatments, although it is not considered a serious complication.
In most people, simple fainting is not a sign of a life-threatening disease, particularly if it only happens once. The elderly have a higher risk of injury after a fainting episode, especially from fractures. People who faint due to heart disease tend to have a poorer prognosis than those who have heart disease without fainting.
Many people who faint, especially the elderly and those who have heart disease, may be hospitalized to look for a cause. Continuous ECG monitoring can help spot an irregular heartbeat as a cause of fainting, especially in people who faint more than once.
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Review Date: 5/26/2014
Reviewed By: Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD, Solutions Acupuncture, a private practice specializing in complementary and alternative medicine, Phoenix, AZ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by the A.D.A.M Editorial team.
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