What Causes Fainting?

Person fainting

Fainting is a sudden temporary loss of consciousness. It occurs due to a drop in blood pressure which results in decreased blood flow to the brain. A drop in blood pressure may result from dehydration, a change in position, or a fear of something. Most of the time, fainting is not a sign of something serious but if you feel frequent fainting spells it may cause serious problems. Along with unconsciousness, your body could turn cold and pale.

The heart beats at rapid speed and the patient feels dizzy. A fainting episode usually lasts for a few minutes, then the blood flow to the brain becomes normal and the person wakes up.

Prevalence and incidence of syncope

The prevalence of syncope depends upon the clinical conditions and age of the patient. It is observed that around 5% of men and 8% of women experience syncope at some stage of their life. However, this number may hike with an increase in age. The peak ratio has been found in people over 70 years of age.

Different types of syncope

Syncope has three main types

  1. Reflex syncope

It is also called neurocardiogenic syncope. It occurs in response to fear or stress. Fear increases the sympathetic flow to the blood vessels, resulting in vasodilation which leads to fainting.

  1. Situational syncope

This type of syncope occurs in special situations like laughing, deglutition, cough, and defecation. This result in increased C fibres from the central nervous system to the blood vessels.

These fibres dilate the heart vessels and pull out the blood from the veins. There is a decrease in the blood return to the heart hence less blood is pumped to the brain.

  1. Postural syncope

This type of syncope occurs due to a sudden change in the posture of the body. When someone stands from a sitting position, gravity pulls the blood toward the leg muscles. Therefore less blood flows back to the heart which results in low blood pressure.

What are the warning signs of fainting?

Someone who is going to faint may have the following signs :

1. Irregular heartbeat

2. Nausea and vomiting

3. Light headache

4. Dizziness

5. Pale and cold extremists

6. Sweating

7. Low blood pressure

8. Chang in vision

9. Chest pain

Causes of fainting

  1. Drop in blood pressure

A drop in blood pressure leads to reduced blood flow to the brain. There are many reasons why a drop in blood pressure could lead to a temporary loss of consciousness. Low blood pressure can be caused by different factors, such as standing for a prolonged time and extreme heat.

Heat pushes blood away from the main circulatory system and decreases the blood availability for the nervous system hence the person faints. Such patients need immediate medical attention to regain consciousness.

  1. Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome

Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome is a rare condition characterised by an increase in heart rate of at least 35 beats per minute on standing from a sitting position. When you stand from a sitting position, you may lose consciousness for just a moment and such a condition is known as orthostatic hypotension.

The gravity of the earth pulls your blood into the muscles of your legs. Consequently, this reduces the amount of blood that returns to the heart and which therefore will pump less amount of blood to the brain. Some medications such as blood pressure medications often cause this type of low blood pressure.

  1. Pregnancy

Hormonal changes occur during pregnancy which relaxes the blood vessels. The blood accumulates in the periphery of the body and the heart receives too little blood. This process causes fainting. Fainting and dizziness most commonly occur in pregnant women during the first trimester.

To prevent fainting during pregnancy you should take plenty of fluid. Bend and relax your leg muscles before standing from a sitting position.

  1. Stress and fear

Fainting occurs when a person experiences a stressful event such as needle fear during injection, blood sight, physical trauma, or pain. Such stressful conditions lead to vasovagal syncope. Vasovagal syncope is a neuromuscular response of the body to any fear. The heart rate becomes slower and blood pressure drops suddenly.

This is a self-relief condition and requires no proper medical attention. Vasovagal syncope is also called reflex syncope.

  1. Carotid sinus syncope

The carotid artery is a blood vessel that carries blood to the brain. It is located in the neck in front of the muscular band. Syncope happens when the Carotid artery in the neck is pinched which reduces the blood flow to the brain.

  1. Medications

Certain medications such as diuretics, ACE inhibitors, and Calcium channel blockers can cause fainting. Other drugs include nitrates for heart disease and narcotics for severe pain. This drug causes dehydration in the body which results in a fainting spell.

  1. Medical conditions

Certain medical conditions may lead to fainting. Among these heart diseases such as arrhythmia and diabetes mellitus are most common. Heart disease constricts the heart vessels and decreases the blood flow towards cardiac muscles which become unable to push blood to the brain. Diabetes mellitus may cause hypoglycaemia.

How do you prevent fainting?

Home remedies for treating dizziness.

1. Don't skip your meal

2. Drink plenty of water

Water and electrolytes keep your blood pressure in the normal range and support to supply of oxygenated blood to your brain.

3. Try to avoid standing in one place for a longer time.

4. If you have experienced a fainting episode, then avoid exerting in warm weather.

5. Don't go to places where you have experienced stressful events.

6. If you have fainting attacks, then lay down in the proper position to enhance your blood supply to the brain.

Medical treatment

If you have frequent fainting attacks, you need to seek medical attention. Your doctor may advise certain medications to normalise your blood pressure and improve blood flow to the brain. This medication includes Beta-blockers, Calcium channel blockers, and ace inhibitors.

Health conditions such as heart disease and diabetes mellitus should be treated.

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