Syncope, commonly known as fainting, is a brief loss of consciousness as a result of a sudden drop in blood pressure and decrease in heart rate which results in an insufficient flow of blood to the brain. Most people regain consciousness after a few moments, but may experience a state of confusion for a short period.

Causes of Syncope

When the heart rate slows down and the blood vessels in the legs enlarge, blood begins to pool in the legs. This causes blood pressure to drop and with a slowed heart rate, there is less blood flow to the brain. There are many different causes of syncope, which may include:

  • Poor blood circulation
  • Nervous system malfunctioning
  • A change in the blood pressure
  • A change in heart rate
  • Stress
  • Pain
  • A change in body position
  • Overheating
  • Dehydration
  • Exhaustion
  • Side effects of certain medication

Symptoms of Syncope

Patients with syncope may experience the following:

  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Unsteadiness
  • Pale skin
  • Tunnel vision
  • Nausea

Patients may experience heart palpitations or a warm feeling before a fainting episode as well, which become warning signs that patients can recognize before syncope occurs. After an episode of syncope, at least 30 percent of patients will have a recurrence.

Treatment of Syncope

Because fainting can be an indication of another condition, a patient should alert their doctor about their episode. Treatment for syncope depends on the underlying cause of the condition, and the aim is to prevent more fainting episodes. Treatment may include:

  • Medication
  • Support garments to improve circulation
  • Biofeedback training
  • Pacemaker, to regulate the heart rate
  • Foot exercises
  • Dietary modification

Patients should talk to their doctor if they have had episodes of syncope.

Additional Resources