Fainting, known as syncope in medical terms is a sudden, temporary loss of consciousness which often results in falls. However, after an episode of fainting the person will return to complete consciousness. Most of the times, fainting is relatively harmless but sometimes it can occur as a warning sign of a serious underlying problem. Therefore, immediate medical help is required when a person experiences syncope or fainting.
The following symptoms may be experienced before an episode of fainting:
- Blurred vision or formation of blind spots in front of the eyes
- Sudden sweating
- Ringing in the ears
- Feeling heaviness in the legs
- Feeling hot or warm
Finally, the patient faints and looses consciousness which is noticed by others around.
Fainting usually occurs due to the deprivation of oxygen to the cells of the brain which results in unconsciousness. This can happen due to several causes such as:
- Low blood pressure or hypotension
- Carbon monoxide poisoning
- Decreased ability of the heart to pump blood
- Problems with blood circulation
- Severe dehydration leading to the loss of body fluids
- Malfunctioning of the lungs
- Uncontrolled diabetes
- Use of certain medicines such as diuretics (water pills) and high blood pressure medicines
- Standing for prolonged period
Some people may faint while receiving injection or by seeing someone injured or bleeding.
However, fainting does not occur due to an injury or trauma to the head.
The following factors can increase the risk of a person to faint:
- Alcohol consumption
- Emotional stress
- Generalized weakness
Diagnosis involves understanding the exact cause of fainting to rule of out any serious conditions such as a stroke which can also lead to fainting and fall.
The doctor will collect information such as the symptoms which occurred before fainting, medical and family history of the patient, medications currently in use and the details of previous episodes of fainting, if any.
Physical examination includes listening to the heart beat to rule of any heart related conditions. Additionally, one or more of the following tests may be ordered to know the exact cause of fainting:
- Blood tests to check for infection, diabetes, or anemia
- ECG (electrocardiogram) to check the electrical activity of the heart
- Tilt-table test to monitor the blood pressure, heart rate and rhythm by changing the positions of the patient
- CT (computed tomography) scan of the brain to check for bleeding
Treatment of syncope is based on the cause of the condition. Treatment is not necessary if there is no underlying medical condition for fainting.
Additionally, it is advisable to avoid triggers such as being in hot sun, dehydration, crowded places and long periods of standing.
Taking the below measures may be helpful to prevent injuries when a feeling of fainting is experienced:
- Do not stand or continue to stand. Instead find a convenient place to sit or lie down.
- While sitting down, place the head between the knees.
- When the condition improves, get up slowly.
If someone around faints, help the patient by doing the following:
- Place the patient facing up, on his or her back.
- If the patient is breathing, then raise the legs about one foot above the level of the heart.
- Try to loosen the clothing, belt, and tie.
- Once the patient comes to consciousness, ask him or her to get up slowly.
- If the patient is unconscious for more than a minute, then get immediate medical help and place the patient in recovery position.
- Check if the patient is breathing and moving. Otherwise start CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) until medical help is available or the patient starts breathing.
- In case of bleeding associated with a fall, apply compression directly to the area to stop bleeding.