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Fainting Symptoms - Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment

Fainting Symptoms - Causes, Diagnosis & Treatment

Fainting is a sudden loss of consciousness, also known as passing out or syncope. It's caused by a sudden decrease in blood flow to the brain. Episodes usually last one or two seconds. Most fainting spells are not cause for concern, but it may happen often or you might have other symptoms - if so, it's important to seek medical attention.

What is Fainting?

Fainting happens as a result of a sudden drop in blood pressure. The most common causes are changes in the blood vessels or the heartbeat.

The vessels that carry blood continuously change size to maintain the pressure within our bodies. When we stand up, the vessels tighten, which is a reaction to the force of gravity. Temporary low blood pressure can be caused by events that prompt the vessels to dilate, such as extreme heat, emotional distress or pain. The brain struggles to get enough blood when this is happening and this can lead to unconsciousness.

Fainting is generally a minor thing. It's when somebody loses consciousness and falls down, which will make them feel unwell for a few minutes afterwards. Usually, the person will only lose consciousness for a few seconds, but if it doesn't pass quickly, the person should get medical attention immediately.

Causes of Fainting

There are many different reasons why someone may faint. It could be due to a drop in blood sugar, low blood pressure, or an increase in heart rate. Sometimes fainting is caused by a sudden change in position, such as standing up too quickly from a lying down position. Other times, it may be due to emotional stress or anxiety.

Symptoms of Fainting

When you faint, or pass out, you lose consciousness for a short period of time. You may feel like you are about to faint before you actually faint. Pre-syncope symptoms include: 

  • Lightheadedness: When you feel lightheaded, it may feel like you are about to faint. You may have a feeling of being unsteady or dizzy. You might also experience a sense of dizziness. Lightheadedness can be a symptom of several conditions, including low blood sugar, dehydration, and anemia. It could also be a negative drug side effect. If you feel lightheaded, sit or lie down and drink some water. If the lightheadedness persists, call your doctor.
  • Tunnel Vision: Passing out, or fainting, is a sudden loss of consciousness. It's usually caused by not getting enough blood to your brain. When you faint, you'll fall to the ground. You may feel lightheaded and dizzy before you pass out.
  • Nausea: Nausea is one of the most common fainting symptoms. It is often described as feeling sick to your stomach or feeling like you need to vomit. Nausea can be caused by a variety of things, including anxiety, stress, pregnancy, and certain medications. If you are feeling nauseous, it is important to sit down or lie down and drink plenty of fluids. If you do vomit, be sure to rinse your mouth out with water afterwards.
  • Cold Sweat: When you faint, you may feel like you are going to die. Your skin may turn pale and feel clammy. You may break out in a cold sweat. Your heart may race or slow down. You may feel dizzy, lightheaded, or nauseated. You may have blurred vision or see spots.
  • Syncope is the medical term for fainting. It happens when your brain doesn’t get enough oxygen and blood. This can be due to a number of reasons, including: 
  • Dehydration: Dehydration can cause your blood pressure to drop, which can lead to fainting. When you’re dehydrated, your blood volume is reduced and your heart has to work harder to pump it through your body. This can make you feel lightheaded or dizzy, and you may faint.
  • Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia): If you faint or feel like you are going to faint, it could be due to low blood sugar. This can happen if you have not eaten for a while, if you have eaten a sugary food and your insulin levels are high, or if you have diabetes and your blood sugar is low. Sometimes fainting can also be due to dehydration from sweating, vomiting, or diarrhea. If you think you might be experiencing low blood sugar, try to eat or drink something that will raise your blood sugar levels quickly, such as candy, juice, or glucose tablets.

 If you have any of these pre-syncope symptoms or experience syncope, lie down with your feet up and head lower than your heart. Drink lots of fluids and avoid standing for long periods of time. If you faint more than once, see your doctor to find out if there is an underlying cause.

How to Prevent Fainting

When you feel like you are about to faint, there are a few things you can do to prevent it from happening. First, try to sit or lie down. If you are standing, make sure you are not leaning against anything and that your legs are not crossed. Second, take slow deep breaths and try to relax. Third, put your head between your knees if you are sitting down or lie down with your feet up if you are lying down. Fourth, drink some cold water or splash some cold water on your face. Finally, if none of these things work, have someone else call for medical help.

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