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What is Syncope?

Syncope (pronounced SIN'ko-pe) is the temporary loss of consciousness due to a sudden decline in blood flow to the brain.

Syncope can occur in otherwise healthy people. It most often occurs when the blood pressure is too low and the heart doesn't pump a normal supply of oxygen to the brain.

Syncope can even be life-threatening if not treated appropriately. If syncope occurs with exercise, or if it is associated with palpitations or irregularities of the heart visit a doctor immediately.

What Causes Syncope?

Syncope is caused by several events. Some of the most common causes are:

  • an irregular cardiac rate or rhythm
  • irregular cardiac rhythm
  • changes in the blood volume
  • changes in blood distribution
  • emotional stress
  • pain
  • overheating
  • dehydration
  • heavy sweating or exhaustion
  • violent coughing spells
  • a heart disorder
  • neurological disorders
  • psychiatric disorders
  • metabolic disorders
  • lung disorders
  • side effect of medicine

Symptoms of Syncope

Just before the person loses consciousness, the person may feel faint, dizzy, or lightheaded. Faintness, dizziness and lightheadedness just before loss of consciousness is called presyncope.

Can Syncope be Treated?

Treatment options depend on the cause. If syncope is not caused by a heart problem, it can be treated acutely by lying down with the legs elevated. Infrequent episodes of non-cardiac syncope usually do not require treatment.

Neurally mediated syncope

Neurally mediated syncope is a benign cause of fainting. Neurally mediated syncope is more common in children and young adults but it can occur at any age. Neurally mediated syncope occurs when blood pressure drops, reducing circulation to the brain and causing loss of consciousness. Usually, neurally mediated syncope occurs while standing and is often preceded by a sensation of warmth, nausea, lightheadedness and visual "grayout." If the syncope is prolonged, it can trigger a seizure. Placing the person in a reclining position will restore blood flow and consciousness and end the seizure.

Neurally medicated syncope is also called NMS, neurocardiogenic, vasovagal, vasodepressor or reflex mediated syncope.

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