Syncope is a condition that causes fainting and other symptoms and occurs because the blood pressure or heart rate temporarily dip below normal levels. As a result, less blood flows to the brain, resulting in fainting and temporary loss of consciousness.
The most common sign of syncope is fainting. Episodes of unconsciousness are typically brief, but because they are unexpected, they can cause dangerous falls that can result in serious injuries. Often, there is a period of slight confusion when coming around after a fainting spell. Other symptoms include sudden drowsiness, dizziness, lightheadedness, vision problems like tunnel vision or seeing spots, cold sweat or clammy skin, headache, palpitations, racing heartbeat, and feelings of being unsteady when standing or rising from a seated position. Syncope can occur after a period of heavy exercise or as a result of other issues, but often it occurs when a more serious medical condition is present, including heart failure.
Because different conditions can cause or exacerbate syncope, the first step in treating the condition is to have a thorough physical examination with a complete personal and family medical history. Testing is also used to look for the cause of syncope, including stress tests that evaluate how the heart performs in response to physical activity like walking on a treadmill or using a stationary bike. Echocardiograms may be ordered to evaluate the heart structure and function using ultrasound. Electrocardiograms may also be used to assess the electrical activity of the heart, and blood tests may also be needed. Many patients with syncope can be successfully treated with medication, but sometimes, other types of treatments are required depending on the underlying cause. Patients who faint regularly should make an appointment with Dr. Kasper at the Saddle River Medical Center for screening and diagnosis so treatment can commence.
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