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When Should You Worry About Fainting?

Jun 09, 2023
 When Should You Worry About Fainting?
Do you swoon at the sight of blood or faint after getting up too quickly? You may wonder why. If you faint, does that mean you should worry about your health? Fainting may indicate an underlying medical condition. Learn more here.

Fainting in the Victorian era, when women’s waists were cinched, was taken as a sign of feminine delicacy. Even now, young women are more likely than young men to faint, although that difference disappears with age. But fainting could be a sign of heart disease such as cardiomyopathy, particularly if it happens more than once.

Why do you faint, what does it mean, and when do you need a medical evaluation?

At Advanced Medical Care in Brooklyn and Queens, New York, our cardiology specialists expertly evaluate the health of your cardiovascular system whenever you have a troubling symptom. When is fainting a problem and when is it not? This brief helps answer those questions.

What is fainting?

Fainting, also known as syncope, is a transient loss of consciousness that occurs unexpectedly. Before you faint, you may feel woozy, dizzy, or nauseated; you may even vomit. Or you may simply lose consciousness without any warning.

Fainting occurs because a sudden drop in blood pressure deprives your brain of the oxygen it needs. Anything that affects your blood pressure could trigger a fainting episode, from vagus nerve stimulation to dehydration to a weak or diseased heart.

Even though some episodes of fainting aren’t serious, you should always seek a medical explanation for why you suddenly lost consciousness. Fainting may indicate an underlying medical condition or put you at risk for injury if you fall when you pass out.

Reflex syncope

The most common type of fainting is called vasovagal syncope. This occurs when something puts pressure on your vagus nerve, causing your blood pressure to drop. About one-third of women and men will have an episode of vasovagal syncope in their lifetime. 

Vasovagal syncope is considered a reflex type of fainting, because it occurs in response to stimuli. Some triggers to vasovagal syncope include:

  • The sight of blood
  • Donating blood
  • Getting an injection or having blood drawn
  • Standing up too quickly
  • Standing upright for long periods
  • Sudden trauma, such as an emotional shock or a blow

Situational syncope is another type of reflex syncope. It can be triggered by events such as:

  • Lifting weights
  • Blowing a brass instrument
  • Defecating or passing gas
  • Coughing, sneezing, laughing
  • Urinating while standing
  • Eating a meal
  • Sudden abdominal pain

A third type of reflex syncope is carotid sinus syncope, which affects older adults. Pressure on the carotid artery by such minor things as a tight collar or a fast head turn can cause fainting.

Most instances of reflex syncope aren’t serious. However, you can’t diagnose your own type of syncope. If you faint, be sure to get a medical evaluation.

Cardiac syncope

A more serious and potentially life-threatening form of syncope is caused by abnormalities in your heart. If you have cardiac syncope, you may faint more than once. You may also not have any warning (presyncope) signs, such as dizziness. Cardiac syncope can be caused by:

  • Bradyarrhythmias (the heart beats too slowly)
  • Tachyarrhythmias (the heart beats too quickly)
  • Aortic dissection (tear in the aorta)
  • Aortic valve stenosis (narrowing of the aortic valve)

If you faint and have or have had symptoms related to your heart, such as palpitations or arrhythmias, seek medical attention immediately. 

Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS)

Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) is a rare condition in which your heart rate speeds up by at least 30 beats per minute when you stand up. Standing up may also make you feel lightheaded or fatigued. 

POTS treatment usually involves increased fluid and salt intake, modifications to exercises and activities, and avoiding triggers.

Don’t take fainting lightly. If you’ve fainted once or more, get answers about why and whether it’s a problem by contacting the experienced team at Advanced Medical Care today. We provide individualized care for all of your cardiology needs.

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