A fainting spell, also called syncope, is a loss of consciousness for a few seconds or minutes due to low blood flow or oxygen to the brain. It is often preceded by lightheadedness, dizziness, nausea, or a fading of sounds or vision. Fainting spells are common and can affect one in three adults at least once in their lives. They can be triggered by various factors, such as dehydration, stress, heat, exhaustion, illness, or the sight of blood. Most fainting spells are not serious, but they should be checked by a doctor to rule out more severe causes, especially heart-related problems
What is a fainting spell called?
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Nearly everyone has experienced the sensation of feeling lightheaded when standing up quickly. It feels as though you might faint for a few seconds and in some cases, people do lose consciousness for brief periods of time.
But most fainting spells, also called syncope, (pronounced Sin-koe-pee), are not serious and may be caused by many factors such as stress, grief, overheating, dehydration, exhaustion or illness. About one-third of all people will have at least one fainting spell during their lifetime.
The Facts About Fainting
The most common reason for fainting is a sudden drop in blood pressure. This typically occurs because the heart cannot pump an adequate amount of blood fast enough to the brain when the body demands it. The lack of blood circulation, and the oxygen it carries to the brain, is what causes the dizziness and possible loss of consciousness. Fainting can happen to anyone but is especially common among older people.
It can also occur when you:
- Stand up quickly from a sitting or lying position.
- Work or play hard, especially if it’s hot.
- Breathe too fast (also known as hyperventilating).
- Take medicine for high blood pressure.
Sometimes you can avoid fainting by heeding the early warning signs, which include:
- Pale skin appearance
- Feeling of warmth
- Rapid breathing
- Blurred vision
Getting to the Root of Fainting
If you have a tendency to faint, it is important that you try to determine the cause(s). This will enable you to prevent fainting by avoiding the situations that may trigger a fainting spell.
For example, if you determine that you are prone to low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) you should always carry a fast-acting carbohydrate with you like as a juice box or a bag of raisins. If you tend to respond strongly to certain stressful situations, you may need to learn to practice systematic, deliberate breathing as a way to manage your stress response and avoid hyperventilating.
Some people may also have health issues that may bring about fainting, such as a heart condition. Older adults may experience a higher risk of fainting due to medications they are taking or because they are dehydrated. You will likely have to do some of your own investigative work to determine what prompts you to feel faint. You should also be sure to discuss any ongoing fainting spells with your doctor.