Syncope is a medical term that means loss of consciousness. Loss of consciousness can result for various reasons. From the perspective of the cardiovascular system, syncope can happen when blood flow to your brain drops to the point where your brain does not get enough oxygen to stay awake. Serious heart problems which cause the heart to beat very fast or very slow can cause syncope, but the most common cause is not serious. This is called vasovagal, vasodepressor syncope, or most commonly called fainting.
Fainting can be disabling because it may interfere with your daily life. Fainting episodes can occur anytime and without careful analysis, you may not know what triggers a spell. However, as you learn more about this problem, you will recognize that you can anticipate fainting and even avoid the events that can trigger them.
Normally, when you stand, the blood vessels in your legs narrow and push blood up to your heart. From there, the blood is pumped to your brain. You will lose consciousness if your brain goes without adequate blood for more than six seconds. If blood pools in your legs and does not return to your heart, the result can be a lack of adequate blood flow in your brain which results in syncope.
This pooling of blood and lack of brain flow may be cause by a variety of events including, but not limited to:
- Dehydration or lack of adequate fluid in your body
- Bad smells
- Feeling of being trapped
Fainting rarely occurs without warning and there are several characteristic symptoms to look for:
- You may feel warm
- You are a bit sweaty
- You feel nauseated
- Your vision may become dim or you may sense your surroundings closing in
A loss of consciousness may occur when you are in standing or seated position and will generally last less than a minute. Upon lying flat, blood returns to the brain, and consciousness returns. After fainting, you may feel nauseated and tired.
To diagnose the cause of syncope, your NMHI physician will need to monitor your heart rhythm. There are several tests that can be used to help to understand the cause of your syncope:
- A Tilt Table Test performed at an NMHI office and takes between 90 minutes and 2 hours
- A Holter monitor records your heart rhythm for 24 hours
- An Event monitor can be used for 30 days
- An Implantable Loop Recorder is implanted through a small incision underneath the skin. It can monitor your heart rhythm for a year or more.
Click on any of the above tests to read more.