Syncope is the medical term for “fainting or passing out”. Syncope is an alarming event for most patients and their families and it is usually scary to witness someone pass out. In general, Syncope is a common condition. It affects 3% of men and 3.5% of women at some point in life. Syncope is more common as you get older and affects up to 6% of people over age 75. The condition can occur at any age and happens in people with and without other medical problems. Before fainting, the patient may experience some of the following: pale skin, lightheadedness, tunnel or narrow vision, nausea, feeling warm, a cold, clammy sweat, yawning and blurred vision. There are several different types of syncope including: Vasovagal syncope (also called neuro-cardiogenic syncope), Situational syncope, Postural syncope (also called postural hypotension), Neurologic syncope, Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS). The cause of syncope is unknown in about one-third of patients. However, an increased risk of syncope is a side effect for some medications. The causes of syncope vary in severity, in some instances the causes can be due to life threatening situations, in others due to benign causes. Serious life threatening causes of syncope are usually related to heart conditions. The commonest cardiac causes of syncope are slow heart rate or “pauses” of the heart rhythm when the heart doesn’t beat for few seconds or beats very slowly. The treatment of this is usually pacemaker implantation.
Other cardiac causes of syncope could be due to fast heart rate or tachycardia which commonly occur due to heart rhythm disorders. The treatment of this is usually complex and depends on the type of tachycardia and the risk associated with it. Vasovagal syncope (vay-zoh-VAY-gul SING-kuh-pee) is one of the commonest causes of passing. It occurs when the part of the nervous system that regulates heart rate and blood pressure malfunctions in response to a trigger, such as the sight of blood. The heart rate slows, and the blood vessels in the legs widen (dilate.) This allows blood to pool in the legs, which lowers the blood pressure. Combined, the drop in blood pressure and slowed heart rate quickly reduce blood flow to your brain, and makes the patient faint. Syncope can be caused by many things. Many patients may also have a condition that causes the blood pressure to drop when they change positions (for example, going from lying down to standing). This is called “Orthostatic Hypotension”. If you or your loved one experience syncope, make sure to talk to your primary care physician and call our clinic to schedule an appointment.