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Publisher/Author : Pacific Cross
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By: Na Phan, Medically reviewed by: Dr. Duyen Le. 

Know the basics

What is syncope?

Syncope is a brief temporary loss of consciousness. The episode lasts less than a couple of minutes and you recover from it quickly and completely. In majority of cases, syncope occurs due to low blood pressure that cause the drop of blood flow to the brain, or the heart can’t provide enough oxygen-rich blood to the brain.

How common is syncope?

Syncope can occur in people depends on the health condition. Persons who with poor health or have heart problems are more likely to faint. This is a common condition, accounting for 3% of emergency cases and 6% of hospitalizations.

Know the symptoms

What are the symptoms of syncope?

Symptoms of syncope may occur in seconds before fainting. They include too fast or irregular or too slow heart rate. Other symptoms may include yawn or shortness of breath, nausea, suddenly sweating too much or dizziness, tinnitus.

There may be some signs or symptoms not listed above. If you have any concerns about a symptom, please consult your doctor.

When should I see my doctor?

You may faint due to panic, pain, over tired, hungry, or drinking too much. These cases should go away after the body recovered. However, you need to be hospitalized as soon as you experience symptoms of chest pain, shortness of breath, or you have a history of heart disease.

Know the causes

What causes syncope?

The usual cause is related to not enough blood flow to the brain. It may cause by:

  • Blood collecting in veins in the lower body because if gravity (venous pooling) or straining (Valsalva’s maneuver)
  • Damaged or stiff blood vessels
  • Abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias)
  • Low blood pressure
  • Ineffective pumping by the heart because of heart disease (heart failure) or heart valve abnormalities
  • Anemia ( low red blood cell count)
  • Drugs (especially those for high blood pressure), lung diseases
  • Too much water loss from the body (dehydration)

One type of fainting called vasovagal syncope refers to over stimulation of the vagus nerve, which lowers blood pressure and causes fainting. This type may occur with anxiety, pain, urination, or coughing.

Know the risk factors

What increases my risk for syncope?

Certain factors may increase your risk of developing syncope:

  • Standing up very suddenly from a lying position
  • Donating blood with an empty stomach;
  • Nervous tension;
  • Chronic low blood pressure;
  • Heart disease or other diseases.

Understand the diagnosis & treatment

The information provided is not a substitute for any medical advice. ALWAYS consult with your doctor for more information.

How is syncope diagnosed?

To find out the cause of syncope, the doctor will obtain a medical history, do a physical examination and ECG, and take blood pressure with the person in different positions (lying, sitting, standing, after exercise).

Tilt table testing is a test done by specialists, when the cause of syncope is unclear. It can check for symptoms with the body in different positions. If an irregular heartbeat is suspected, the doctor may use a Holter monitor, a device worn at home and work to monitor the heart rhythm

How is syncope treated?

Normally, you will recover by yourself after fainting. If not enough blood is pumped by the heart, the heart’s condition must be checked. The doctor may suggest seeing a heart specialist (cardiologist) for additional tests.

For people with low blood pressure (hypotension) or heart disease, drugs that may be causing fainting are stopped on a trial basis.

Lifestyle changes & home remedies

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage syncope?

The following lifestyles and home remedies might help you cope with syncope :

  • Don’t fast and drink enough fluids
  • Sit or lie down if you fell faint, to help improve blood flow to the brain.

If you have any questions, please consult with your doctor to better understand the best solution for you.


Ferri, Fred. Ferri’s Netter Patient Advisor. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders / Elsevier, 2012. Print edition. Page 59.

Review Date: January 4, 2017 | Last Modified: January 4, 2017

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