Syncope happens when, for short periods of time, there is a sudden drop in blood pressure and there is reduced blood flow to the brain. The most common cause of syncope, especially in healthy young people, is vasovagal syncope. The good news is that, even though vasovagal syncope sounds scary, most of the time it is nothing to worry about.
Vasovagal syncope is due to slow heart beat or expansion of blood vessels. This allows the blood to accumulate in your legs, which lowers your blood pressure and reduces blood flow to the brain. There are certain situations that can provoke these responses, for example pain, fear, standing for too long, being over tired or over heated. It could even be an unusual reaction to coughing, having a bowel movement or urinating. Before you faint you might experience lightheadedness, nausea, cold sweats, a feeling of warmth or blurry vision.
The diagnosis of vasovagal syncope can be made without further testing or by excluding other causes, but sometimes tests like blood work, electrocardiogram, exercise stress test or tilt table test are performed. In most cases, treatment for vasovagal syncope is not necessary. Your doctor might recommend that you increase your liquid and salt intake, wear compressions stockings or avoid prolonged standing, especially in crowded or hot places. Occasionally, medication to increase your blood pressure is needed.
Other less frequent causes of syncope are problems in the brain or in the valves, muscles or the electrical system of the heart. All of these causes will be considered by your doctor or nurse when evaluating your case. Because the causes may vary, it is important that every person who faints is evaluated by a healthcare professional.
To make an appointment with an Emory Healthcare physician, please call 404-778-7777.
About Dr. Gongora
Dr. Gongora went to medical school in Bogota, Colombia, where she is from originally. She moved to Atlanta in 2005. Before starting her training in Internal Medicine and Cardiology at Emory University, Dr. Gongora did a post doctoral research fellowship in hypertension and renal disease. Her research was partially funded by the American Heart Association. During this time she published in recognized journals like the Journal of American College of Cardiology, Hypertension and Circulation. Also, she presented in nationally renowned meetings, like the American Heart Association, the American Society of Hypertension and the American Physiology Society meetings, among others. She has been a member of the American College of Cardiology, the American Physiological Society and the American Heart Association-Council for high blood pressure. She is board certified in Cardiology, Internal Medicine and Echocardiography.