Syncope

Treating Cardiovascular Diseases in Wisconsin and Northern Illinois

Syncope is the medical term for fainting. When you faint, you temporarily lose consciousness due to a sudden drop in blood flow to the brain. You also lose your posture, meaning you fall if standing or slump over if sitting. Although fainting can be a dramatic event, most people regain consciousness on their own after a minute or two, and make a full recovery within minutes or hours.

Syncope is a common condition, affecting about 3 percent of people during their lifetime. It occurs with and without other medical conditions, and becomes more common with age. About 30 percent of those who have one fainting episode have another.

Syncope Symptoms 

Signs and symptoms of syncope include:

  • Losing consciousness or blacking out
  • Losing posture

Fainting is often preceded by other symptoms, such as:

  • Dizziness
  • Feeling unsteady or weak when standing
  • Grogginess
  • Light-headedness
  • Skin that feels cold and clammy

Syncope Causes

There are several types of syncope and each has a different cause:

Vasovagal syncope is the most common type. This condition, also known as neurogenic syncope, occurs when your blood pressure suddenly drops, reducing blood flow to the brain. When you move to a standing position, your blood vessels automatically constrict to maintain your blood pressure. With vasovagal syncope, this automatic reflex does not occur. As a result, gravity causes blood to pool in your legs and your blood pressure to quickly drop.

Situational syncope occurs in response to various stimuli, such as dehydration, pain, hunger, intense emotional stress or fear, or the use of alcohol or drugs. Sometimes coughing or urinating triggers situational syncope.

Postural syncope, also called postural hypotension, occurs when you change positions quickly, such as from lying down to standing. With this type, causescan be related to medications or dehydration.

Cardiac syncope is caused by a blood vessel condition that interferes with blood flow to the brain. Conditions that may trigger this include an abnormal heart rhythm, obstructed blood flow in the heart or blood vessels, valve conditions, or blood clots.

Neurologic syncope is caused by various neurological conditions, such as a seizure, stroke and mini strokes, known as transient ischemic attacks or TIAs. Occasionally migraine headaches may cause this.

Anemia and various metabolic disorders, such as diabetes, are also causes of syncope. In about one-third of all cases, the cause remains unknown.

Diagnosing Syncope

Because syncope could be the sign of a more serious condition, it is important to see your doctor after a fainting episode occurs. Your doctor will review your medical history, perform a physical exam and ask detailed questions about your fainting episode, including whether you experienced any warning signs and the circumstances in which it occurred.

To determine whether your syncope is related to an underlying medical condition, your doctor is likely to perform various tests, including:

  • A tilt-table test. Also known as HUT or head up tilt test
  • Blood volume determination, to evaluate whether your blood volume is appropriate for your height, weight and gender
  • Hemodynamic testing

Treating Syncope

Immediately after a fainting or syncopal episode, it is important to make sure that the person’s airways are open. Once consciousness returns, he or she should remain lying down for about 10 to 15 minutes.

The goals of treatment are aimed at preventing a recurring episode. However, treatment is very individualized, depending on test results and whether an underlying medical condition is to blame.

Various treatment options include:

  • Addressing an underlying condition, such as a heart or metabolic disorder
  • Adding or changing medications
  • Elevating the head of your bed while sleeping
  • Making dietary changes, such as eating more frequently, increasing fluid intake, adding potassium. sodium or avoiding caffeine or alcohol
  • Wearing compression stockings to improve circulation

A Leader in Diagnosing and Treating Cardiovascular Disease

Aurora Health Care uses a team approach when diagnosing, managing and treating all types of cardiovascular conditions. We have the latest diagnostic equipment to determine if your syncope is caused by an underlying cardiovascular condition and world renowned specialists for treating these conditions.

Aurora doctors are conveniently located throughout eastern Wisconsin and northeastern Illinois. Find a doctor or heart specialist near you. To get a second opinion or if you need assistance finding a provider, please call 888-649-6892.