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Syncope

Syncope is a temporary loss of consciousness and posture, described as fainting or passing out. Usually related to temporary insufficient blood flow to the brain, it most often occurs when the blood pressure is too low (hypotension) and the heart doesn't pump a normal supply of oxygen to the brain.


What causes syncope may be emotional stress, pain, pooling of blood in the legs due to sudden changes in body position, overheating, dehydration, heavy sweating or exhaustion. Syncope may occur during violent coughing spells (especially in men) because of rapid changes in blood pressure. It also may result from several heart, neurologic, psychiatric, metabolic and lung disorders. And it may be a side effect of some medicines. Some forms of syncope suggest a serious disorder: Occurring with exercise.


Syncope is associated with palpitations or irregularities of the heart and/or family history of recurrent syncope or sudden death.


Other tests, such as exercise stress test, Holter monitor, echocardiogram, etc., may be needed to rule out other cardiac causes of syncope. If EKG and cardiac tests are normal, the person will undergo a tilt test. The blood pressure and heart rate will be measured while lying down on a board and after the board is tilted up. Someone who has NMS will usually faint during the tilt, due to the rapid drop in blood pressure and heart rate. As soon as the person is placed on his or her back again, blood flow and consciousness are restored.


To help prevent syncope, people with NMS should be on a higher-salt diet (this is recommended only for persons diagnosed with NMS) and drink plenty of fluids to avoid dehydration and maintain blood volume. They should watch for the warning signs of fainting – dizziness, nausea and sweaty palms – and sit or lie down if they feel the warning signs. Some people also may need medication.


Talk to your doctor about your care or any questions you may have.


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