Vasovagal Syncope

Why do people faint?

Vasovagal syncope is an elaborate medical term for a very common condition – fainting. Vaso refers to blood vessels, vagal to the nerve that controls your heart rate and syncope simply means to lose consciousness. It happens when your body overreacts to certain triggers, such as the sight of blood or heat exposure or extreme emotional distress. When this happens, your heart rate and blood pressure plummet, blood flow to your brain slows, and you briefly lose consciousness.

Vasovagal syncope is the most common cause of fainting and can affect people of any age.

Most people who faint have a perfectly normal heart and require no treatment. However, the signs and symptoms of vasovagal syncope can vary among individuals. Some experience mild symptoms such as lightheadedness, while others may have frequent fainting episodes. Fainting can be a sign of a more serious condition, so it is important to consult a physician after a fainting spell – especially if you have never had one before. Your doctor may recommend tests to rule out more serious health issues. If you feel a vasovagal attack beginning, lie down quickly and elevate your feet so you don’t hurt yourself.

Symptoms may include:
• Pale skin
• Lightheadedness
• Disorientation
• Tunnel vision
• Nausea
• Feeling warm
• A cold, clammy sweat
• Yawning
• Blurred vision
• Headache
• Irregular heartbeat

Bystanders may notice:
• Jerky, abnormal movements
• A slow, weak pulse
• Dilated pupils

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