What is fainting?

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Fainting occurs if the brain does not receive enough oxygen. An individual loses consciousness or “passes out” for a short period of time, usually for a few seconds or minutes.

Possible causes of fainting

Fainting or syncope can be triggered by various factors. Oftentimes, the exact cause for fainting could not be determined.

An abrupt drop in the blood pressure can cause an individual to faint. Sometimes, the heart rate and blood vessels could not react fast enough when the oxygen requirements of the body changes. This is quite common among the elderly and among those who have certain health conditions such as diabetes.

Fainting is likely to occur when:

Playing or working too hard especially during hot weather can lead to fainting.
  • Standing up too fast
  • Playing or working too hard especially during hot weather
  • Starting to breathe too rapidly (hyperventilation)
  • Being upset since this can affect the nerves responsible for controlling the blood pressure
  • Using medications for high blood pressure

Stretching, coughing and urinating can also disrupt with the flow of oxygen to the brain and can cause fainting. If fainting occurs during one of these activities, it is not an issue to worry about. On the other hand, if it occurs more than once, a doctor should be consulted.

A drop in the blood sugar level can also lead to fainting. This can occur among those who have diabetes, but also occur if one has not eaten for a long period of time.

There are also prescription medications that can be considered as a cause. A doctor should be consulted if the episode might be linked to a medication being used. Cocaine, alcohol and marijuana are known to trigger fainting.

Who are at risk?

Individuals who have certain medical conditions are likely to experience an episode. The conditions include the following:

  • Heart conditions such as erratic heartbeat or blockage in or close to the heart that blocks the blood from reaching the brain
  • Diabetes
  • Dehydration
  • Anxiety or panic disorders
  • Low blood sugar level

When to consult a doctor

There is no need to consult a doctor if an individual only fainted once and in good health. It is important to note that fainting is common and not usually serious. Nevertheless, if the individual has serious health issues particularly heart-related issues, diabetes or high blood pressure, a doctor must be consulted.

A doctor should be consulted if an individual faint along with any of these symptoms or conditions:

  • Chest pain
  • Erratic heart beat
  • Pregnancy
  • Blurry vision
  • Shortness of breath
  • Sudden onset
  • Difficulty talking
  • Confusion
  • Fainting when the head is turned to the side
  • Fainting more than once in a month
  • It takes a few seconds to regain consciousness

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