Syncope - Crozer-Keystone Health System - PA

Syncope

What Is Syncope?

Syncope is a momentary decrease in blood flow to the brain, which can lead to temporarily blacking out or even fainting.It’s happened to you many times before. It’s 6 a.m. and your alarm clock is ringing you out of another deep sleep. To avoid showing up late to work again, you quickly jump up out of bed. But as your feet hit the ground, the world around you suddenly turns into silvery blips before going completely black, causing you to briefly stumble around until vision and balance are regained. Holding your hands to your head to gather your composure, you take a deep breath and start getting ready for the day.

Temporarily blacking out and even fainting can be a scary experience for anyone. It is often a result of syncope, a momentary decrease in blood flow to the brain. Often syncope is no big deal, but it can be a sign of other health issues and you should always see your doctor.

Roughly three percent of men and 3.5 percent of women experience moments of syncope at some point in their lives, but in order to prevent it from reoccurring, it’s important to figure out exactly what’s going on in the body.

What Causes Syncope?

Blood flow to the brain can decrease for a variety of reasons, from heart issues, like blood clots and arrhythmia, to situational factors, like when you’re scared or hungry. Other physical issues such as seizures, strokes or sudden drops in blood pressure can also lead to loss of consciousness. Standing up too quickly, like in the example above, can cause the blood to rush from your head to the lower part of your body, making you feel dizzy and unsteady. As blood flow decreases as a result of any of these situations, it can also cause lightheadedness, drowsiness and fainting.

Preventing Syncope

Although it’s scary to think that you can briefly lose consciousness at any moment, there are ways syncope sufferers can help prevent it from re-occurring:

  • Make changes to your diet, like eating small meals more frequently throughout the day. You should also increase your salt and fluid intake and stay away from caffeine and alcohol.
  • Stand up slowly after sitting to reduce the chances of blacking out from changing positions too quickly.
  • At night, add an extra below beneath your head to elevate your head and improve circulation.
  • Wear stockings or garments designed to specifically improve circulation.

If you have a spell of syncope, be sure to see your doctor. She may need to take stronger action, like installing a pacemaker or a cardiac defibrillator to regulate the heart. Understanding the cause of your symptoms is the key to discovering the best way to handle what can be a scary situation.