Vasovagal syncope (vay-zoh-VAY-gul SING-kuh-pee) is one of the most common causes of fainting. Vasovagal syncope occurs when your body overreacts to certain triggers, such as the sight of blood or extreme emotional distress.
The vasovagal syncope trigger causes a sudden drop in your heart rate and blood pressure. That leads to reduced blood flow to your brain, which results in a brief loss of consciousness.
Vasovagal syncope is usually harmless and requires no treatment. But it's possible you may injure yourself during a vasovagal syncope episode. Also, your doctor may recommend tests to rule out more-serious causes of fainting, such as heart disorders.
Before you faint due to vasovagal syncope, you may experience some of the following:
During a vasovagal syncope episode, bystanders may notice:
Recovery after a vasovagal episode begins soon after fainting, generally in less than a minute. However, if you stand up too soon after fainting — within 15 to 30 minutes or so — you're at risk of fainting again.
When to see a doctor
Vasovagal syncope occurs when the part of your nervous system that regulates heart rate and blood pressure malfunctions in response to a trigger, such as the sight of blood. Your heart rate slows, and the blood vessels in your legs widen. This allows blood to pool in your legs, which lowers your blood pressure. This drop in blood pressure and slowed heart rate quickly diminish blood flow to your brain, and you faint.
Common triggers for vasovagal syncope include:
Preparing for your appointment
It's a good idea to prepare for your appointment to make the most of your time with your doctor.
What you can do
What to expect from your doctor
During the physical exam, your doctor will listen to your heart and take your blood pressure. He or she may also massage the main arteries in your neck to see if that causes you to feel faint.
Tests and diagnosis
The diagnosis of vasovagal syncope often involves ruling out other possible causes of your fainting — particularly heart-related problems. These tests may include:
Tilt table test
Treatments and drugs
In most cases of vasovagal syncope, treatment is unnecessary. Your doctor may help you identify your fainting triggers and discuss ways you might avoid them. However, if you experience vasovagal syncope often enough to interfere with your quality of life, your doctor may suggest trying one or more of the following remedies.
Even with treatment, not all vasovagal syncope episodes can be avoided. If you feel like you might faint, lie down and lift your legs. This allows gravity to keep blood flowing to your brain. If you can't lie down, sit down and put your head between your knees until you feel better.
Last Updated: 2013-02-19
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