Fainting (syncope) is temporary loss of consciousness due to inadequate blood supply to brain. Anyone can get a fainting attack despite of the age, gender, and disease condition. But females have more risk of fainting than males, and if a male get an attack of fainting it’s more likely to be a cardiac cause than vasovagal. Fainting can just be a harmless simple attack or can be a sign of underlying very serious disease.
Most common cause encountered in daily life is vasovagal syncope; here the excess vagal nerve discharge due to some precipitating event causes temporary slowing of the heart rate making it difficult to pump blood to the brain. Lack of blood will deprive the neurons in brain of oxygen and glucose causing them to cease functioning temporarily. However, fainting mechanism is itself protective as fainted individual will lie (or fall) down bringing head to the level of heart immediately and restoring the perfusion eliminating the chance of a lasting damage to neurons by lack of oxygen. During fainting some movements of the limbs can occur mimicking a convulsion. This is usually due to lack of oxygen to brain and does not have a significance, however if there is any doubt bring this to the attention of the medical team.
- Vasovagal – one of the most common causes. May occur in an embarrassing or unease situation. Such as drawing blood, vaccination, vigorous coughing, straining, standing for long time, while urination, emotional distress and severe pain.
- Cardiac- cardiac arrhythmias (i.e. abnormalities in rhythm of heart beat, obstructive cardiac lesions, hypotension, drugs that cause lowering of blood pressure.
- Low blood sugar
Symptoms of fainting
- Excessive sweating
- Blurring of vision
- Light headache
- Pale face
- If you feel faintish lie down on floor or on a bed, or if facilities are inadequate sit down and keep your head between your legs.
- Loose tight cloths, tie, belt, which will enhance the blood flow.
- Raise the legs above the level of head. Can use pillows, a bench or folded blanket.
- Check the air way by observing chest movements, listening to and feeling for breaths. If obstructed lift the tongue by inserting a finger and use chin lift and head tilt maneuvers.
- Check respiration and pulse regularly.
- If respiration is compromised act according to basic life support rules.
- Upon regaining consciousness allow the patient to sit or lie flat for further few minutes.
- Stay with the person until the medical team or relatives arrive.
- After recovery give little amount of water first. After some time let him take fluids liberally.
- If the patient has fallen, check for injuries and arrest bleeding, and check whether head injury has occurred, if so transfer to the hospital immediately.
- Note down the following details for future needs, duration of the entire episode, level of consciousness, unusual movements, and color changes.
When to consult your doctor
- If the patient has fallen; especially from a height.
- Injured and bleeding.
- Fallen to water and smothering.
- If recovery is delayed.
- Diabetic patients.
- Associated chest pain or irregular pulse.
- Associated convulsions.
- Recurrent attacks.
- Known metabolic disturbances/ diseases.
- Whenever you feel dizzy, lie down and arrange yourself comfortable.
- Take your meals and medications at the correct time.
- Be careful about your underline medical condition.
- Getup slowly from the bed or chair. Especially if you feel dizzy upon getting up from the bed.
- Avoid sudden head turning.
- Wear loose cloths around neck.
- Avoid hot places.
- Do not exercise too much.
Avoid standing still for long period. If you have to; move legs by bending knees every now and then so that leg muscles will pump blood up.