What is Syncope?
Syncope is the medical term for fainting. When a person loses consciousness for whatever reason, that person is said to have syncope. It may sound straightforward, but if we get deeper into what causes syncope, it gets more complicated. People do not usually have a fainting spell without any explanation.
Should I Worry?
For the most part, you should not worry if you experience syncope. It may seem like a scary condition. But usually, it is not a cause for concern. Most people who experience syncope recover after a few minutes, and do not experience any long-term problems. However, certain serious medical conditions, such as heart disease, can also cause fainting.
Being informed about syncope, what causes syncope, and what other serious symptoms you should watch out for can help keep yourself and other people safe.
How Common is Syncope?
About 3% of men and 3.5% of women experience syncope at one point in their lives. It is a common occurrence. It can happen at any age, but people above 75 are prone to experiencing syncope. The condition can also happen to people with and without any underlying medical conditions.
What Are the Symptoms of Syncope?
It is possible for people who experience syncope to not encounter any symptoms at all. But there are symptoms that people experience during pre-syncope, or the moment right before fainting. Here are some of the warning signs:
- You start to get pale
- Feelings of lightheadedness
- Blurry vision or tunnel vision
- Experiencing a cold, clammy sweat
- Nausea or dizziness
- Slow or weak pulse
- Feeling warm
Here is a handy infographic to remember the symptoms of syncope:
When Should I See My Doctor?
If you are fit and healthy, and it is your first time to experience fainting, there usually is no need to see your doctor, especially if you feel fine afterward. But if you are aged 40 and older, then it might be a good idea to get in touch with your doctor. Syncope can sometimes be a symptom of conditions that appear as you grow older, like heart disease.
For those who frequently have fainting spells, talk to your doctor as it may be a sign of a heart problem.
Causes and Risk Factors
What Causes Syncope?
There are three general types of syncope:
Vasovagal syncope is the most common and the least worrying type of syncope. This condition happens when something causes your blood pressure to drop, cutting off some of the blood supply to the brain suddenly. An emotional response, such as seeing blood or getting surprised, causes this type of syncope. It can also sometimes be triggered by straining during defecation, urination, coughing or sneezing, lifting weights, or eating a meal.
Cardiac syncope is a more serious form of syncope. Heart-related issues are usually the cause, as the name suggests. People with this type of syncope usually experience it more than once. Arrhythmia or an irregular heartbeat and issues in the arteries trigger this type of syncope. People who experience this typically condition do not have the usual pre-syncope symptoms.
In this type of syncope, gravity makes it difficult for the blood to flow to your brain. Low blood pressure or health conditions such as Parkinson’s Disease are the most common causes.
What Are the Risk Factors for Syncope?
Now that we have an idea of what causes syncope, let us move on to the risk factors for this condition. Here is a quick rundown:
- Being aged 75 and older puts you at a higher risk of syncope
- Stress can also increase a person’s risk
- People with emotional triggers can suffer from syncope more frequently than others
- Those with heart conditions have a higher risk of syncope
Risk factors for heart disease can also increase a person’s risk of experiencing syncope.
Diagnosing the root cause of syncope can be done through tests. Your doctor might ask you to undergo some of the following:
- Electrocardiogram or ECG to monitor your heart’s electrical impulses
- Exercise stress test, or having an ECG machine hooked up to you while you exercise
- Echocardiogram, which is an ultrasound that looks at your heart
- Physical exams
- A tilt table test can be used to measure your blood pressure and heart rate
The results of these can help determine if your syncope is related to an underlying condition, such as a heart problem. In some cases, it is nothing to cause worry.
If your doctor sees a problem that might be causing you to faint frequently, then you will need to undergo treatment.
Treatment for syncope varies depending on what condition is causing you to faint. It is usually done to both treat the underlying condition and prevent future fainting spells from happening.
Here are some possible forms of treatment:
- If you are already taking medications for a heart condition, your doctor may reassess their effectivity and give you a different dosage or different medication altogether.
- Your doctor can recommend compression stockings to help improve blood flow.
- Dietary changes, such as having less sodium, can help prevent syncope.
- For some patients, a pacemaker may be needed to help maintain a normal heart rate.
- Some people may also be given an implantable defibrillator, which monitors and corrects their heart rate.
- Your doctor may also do tests to determine triggers so you can avoid these in the future.
If you have a heart condition, then it would be a good idea to talk to your doctor to figure out what steps you can take in terms of treatment. Discuss your condition with your doctor to find the treatment that would work best for you.
Here are some ways to help prevent syncope:
- If you are lying down, avoid standing up too quickly.
- Engage in daily exercise for at least 30 minutes each day.
- Eat a balanced diet, with a lot of fruits and vegetables.
- Try and maintain a healthy weight, especially if you are obese or overweight.
- If you are a smoker, it would be a good idea to quit as soon as possible. Smoking increases your risk of heart disease.
- Have a yearly checkup so that you can monitor your health.
- For people with a heart condition, be sure to take your medication and follow your doctor’s orders.
For the most part, syncope should not cause too much concern. However, it is still a good idea to be informed about what causes syncope and how to prevent it to avoid any health problems in the future.
As always, it is important to listen to your body and be mindful of any new symptoms that occur. If you feel that there is something wrong, do not hesitate to consult your doctor or seek medical attention immediately.
Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.