Also known as ‘fainting spells’, syncope is a temporary condition that occurs when blood and oxygen supply to the brain is drastically reduced, usually as a result of external triggers like suddenly shifting positions, extreme stress, anxiety, etc.
While many individuals experience ‘premonitory symptoms’ prior to a syncopal episode, namely nausea, lightheadedness, and heart palpitations, other indicative symptoms include:
- Pale skin
- Weak pulse
- Slurred speech
- Falling for no reason
- Tunnel vision or seeing spots
- Fainting after eating or exercising
- Sudden changes in body temperature
- Unsteadiness or weakness while standing
- Dizziness, drowsiness, and/or grogginess
The causative factors of syncope are majorly benign, as listed below:
- Low blood sugar
- Abrupt posture changes
- Standing for prolonged time periods
- Extreme stress, fear (such as the sight of blood), or pain
Some causes may, however, be life threatening and require urgent medical attention, particularly in case of recurring episodes:
- Dilated blood vessels
- Undiagnosed diabetes
- Bradycardia (abnormally sow heartbeat)
- Tachycardia (fast and/or irregular heartbeat)
- Underlying structural or functional heart disorders
Prevention and Treatment:
Aside from immediately sitting or lying down upon experiencing the initial signs of an episode, treating syncope involves targeting the root and preventing future episodes:
- Increase daily salt and fluid intake in case of dehydration-induced syncope, and discontinue the use of diuretics and blood pressure-reducing medication, if possible.
- Increase sodium and potassium intake, avoid caffeine, and eat small, frequent meals.
- Beta Blockers, and Fludrocortisone Acetate for hypo-and hypertension, along with Selective Serotonin Inhibitors (anti-depressants) can also be used to treat syncope. However, side-effects include reduced heartbeat and pulse, diarrhea, nausea, and fatigue.
- Improve blood circulation by wearing support garments or compression stockings.
- Avoid known syncopal triggers.
- Get adequate treatment for an underlying cardiac disorder.
- Elevate the head of your bead using extra pillows while sleeping.
- Change positions slowly and cautiously
- Patients with serious Cardiac or Vasovagal Syncope (VVS) may require pacemaker or ICD (Implantable Cardiac Defibrillator) implantation, or Biofeedback training for heart rate and rhythm regulation.
In Case of an Episode:
- For Patient:
Avoid fainting by adopting the following emergency protocol:
- Stop everything and sit or lying down immediately.
- Slowly lower your body to the ground and raise your legs higher than head-level to aid blood flow to the brain from the legs.
- Avoid driving or sudden motions for a few minutes after an attack to allow your body to stabilize.
- If you continue to feel faint or experience other symptoms, call your doctor immediately to determine the next call to action.
Bystanders who suspect someone in their surroundings displays signs of a syncopal episode or is in danger of fainting must following these steps:
- Help the patient sit or lie down and loosen possibly obstructing clothing like shirt collars and neckties.
- Call an ambulance if they don’t regain consciousness within a few minutes. Meanwhile, gently roll the person to the side, check for food in the mouth and throat and make sure they’re breathing.
- Do not leave them alone at all costs until help arrives as most patients may wake up disoriented and panic.
Syncope treatment is usually very simple and non-disruptive. If you experience frequent or serious syncopal episodes, consult with your doctor for accurate diagnosis and treatment. You can also book an appointment with a top Cardiologist in Lahore, Karachi and Islamabad through oladoc.com, or call our helpline at 042-3890-0939 for assistance to find the RIGHT Doctor for your cardiac concerns.
About the Writer:
Yashfa Marrium is a freelance writer and health enthusiast. You can reach her at [email protected]