Do You Faint Often? Expert Tells If You Should Be Taking It Seriously Or Not
Fainting, known as syncope in medical terms, can cause loss of consciousness which occurs when the blood pressure is too low, and the heart doesn't pump enough oxygen to the brain.
Fainting may be indicative of an underlying heart condition
- Incidence of arrhythmia leading to fainting is high at extremities of age
- Fainting in extreme cases can cause sudden cardiac arrest
- Fainting should not be ignored
It is a common belief that fainting happens due to some neurological cause similar to seizures, uncontrollable jerking movements of legs and arms and convulsions. However, fainting or syncope as it is known in medical terms is primarily cardiac in nature. Syncope is the transient loss of consciousness (TLoc) which if accurately diagnosed and treated by the correct medical expert i.e. a cardiac electrophysiologist, can be managed very well within time.
What is syncope or fainting?
Fainting, also known as syncope in medical terms, occurs when there is a temporary drop in the amount of blood that flows to the brain. Loss of consciousness can occur when the blood pressure is too low, and the heart doesn't pump enough oxygen to the brain. Fainting can not only result in injuries due to the person suddenly falling down but can also indicate a more fatal heart condition such as cardiac arrhythmia. The heart beats at the rate of 50 to 100 beats per minute and any disturbance in this rhythm is called cardiac arrythmia. More than 10% people who experience loss of consciousness could be suffering from arrhythmia or any heart related disorder. In 80% of cases, it is possible to determine the underlying cause of syncope by consulting a cardiologist for both young and aged patients.
What leads to Syncope?
Syncope can occur either due to the slowing or speeding up of your heart. The one that happens due to slowing of the heart allows for some time between the fainting episodes that one experiences. This helps the patient to have adequate time to get evaluated by the doctor. However, when syncope is caused due to fast heart rate, it is more challenging since the time window for detecting and evaluation is very brief.
The incidence of arrhythmia leading to syncope is highest at the extremities of age. The incidence is high in younger people, which plateaus and increases as you grow older. Though the risk of arrythmia-related syncope increases with age, children can experience it as well. Therefore, it becomes even more important to be aware the symptoms in children and undertake the right kind of diagnosis and treatment. In certain cases, people, whether children or adults' may visit a neurologist and undergo treatment basis their belief that fainting is a neurological issue. However, fainting primarily occurs due to a cardiac issue and one must seek medical intervention from a cardiac electrophysiologist for diagnosis and treatment.
Complications of Syncope
Fainting in extreme cases can also cause another heart disorder, i.e. sudden cardiac arrest, a condition in which the heart suddenly and unexpectedly stops beating. SCA needs to be treated immediately and can lead to a loss of life in case of delay in treatment. Any change in the way the persons speaks or behaves can indicate an abnormality and requires a cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) to be administered urgently. CPR is an emergency procedure that combines chest compressions to manually restore blood circulation and breathing in case of sudden cardiac arrest. The common signs to look out for during a cardiac arrest are chest pain or discomfort, heart palpitations, irregular heartbeats, shortness of breath or fainting and must be medically addressed in time to prevent fatalities.
It is important to remember that syncope or fainting can lead to potential heart disorders like cardiac arrythmia and sudden cardiac arrest. Hence, while it is important to consult the correct medical expert, it is equally crucial to report fainting in the first instance. It is generally observed that patients report the condition only after multiple episodes of syncope. In some of these cases, the patient may even suffer injuries due to the syncopal episodes. Therefore, fainting can be fatal and should not be ignored.
(Dr. Deepak Padmanabhan is a Consultant Electrophysiologist in Bengaluru)
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