Fainting or syncope: Why you must not ignore temporary loss of consciousness


Fainting is one of the most overlooked of all health issues. Mostly, people associate it with fatigue and stress, and seldom pay attention to what it could be indicating about the state of the body.

Dr M Chandramouli, Interventional Cardiologist and Electrophysiologist at Trust Hospitals explains that fainting is a temporary loss of consciousness that results in a fall if a person is upright, and it is referred to as syncope in medical terms.

What are the symptoms?

– Headaches
– Blackout
– Unconsciousness
– Dizziness or drowsiness
– Fainting, especially after eating or exercising
– Feeling unsteady or weak while standing
– Changes in vision, such as seeing spots or having tunnel vision

Which symptoms should be reviewed in the evaluation of syncope?

According to the doctor, the evaluation of fainting begins with transient loss of consciousness (TLOC), followed by examining the patient’s family health history, and frequency of fainting episodes.

“One must seek expert advice when assessing the likely cause of TLOC. Syncope should not be ignored as no episode of losing consciousness is normal. Although the causes of syncope are generally thought to be neurological, the actual cause is mostly heart disease. One must visit a cardiac expert to diagnose, differentiate from dangerous faints, and treat them properly,” the doctor tells indianexpress.com.

The most common cause of syncope

* Uneven heartbeats (cardiac arrhythmia) that result in the temporary stopping of the heartbeat for a few seconds causing a temporary halt in the blood flow to the brain can result in syncope.

* Sudden and brief fall in blood pressure in an upright position leading to decreased blood supply to the brain.

Is syncope a sign of stroke?

Dr Chandramouli says syncope usually does not cause strokes. Although, one subtype of stroke affecting the back of the brain may result in the loss of stability, consciousness is usually maintained.

“Syncope is a primary symptom of a serious cardiac arrhythmia — when the heart beats at irregular intervals. The condition causes the heart to either beat too fast (tachycardia), too slow (bradycardia) or at irregular intervals. This further causes it to stop pumping blood effectively, which prevents or reduces the circulation of blood to the brain, ultimately leading to syncope.”

Can syncope be prevented?

The doctor says syncope can be managed with the introduction of a few changes in lifestyle, medication, and treatments according to the severity of the disease.

* Eat regular meals and avoid skipping meals.
* Make sure you drink enough water regularly.
* If you need to stand in one place for a long time, be sure to move your legs. Pace if you can or shake your legs out.
* If you’re prone to fainting, avoid exerting yourself in hot weather.
* Take medications as prescribed, especially for diabetes or cardiovascular issues. If you feel dizzy or lightheaded from taking medication, let the doctor know. They may be able to find a different medication that doesn’t cause this side-effect.
* For regulation of blood pressure, simple remedies like increased intake of salt, adequate hydration helps.
* When syncope is caused due to arrhythmia, a cardiac device implantation is a typical treatment provided. It is an electrically-charged medical device for managing irregular heartbeats.

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