Fainting: causes, symptoms and when to consult a doctor - WSLS 10 NBC in Roanoke/Lynchburg Va


Fainting: causes, symptoms and when to consult a doctor

Posted: Updated:

Dr. Kevin Campbell discusses fainting on WNCN Today, including what causes it, what symptoms to look for and when to consult your doctor about it.

Fainting, also called syncope, is a sudden, brief loss of consciousness and posture caused by decreased blood flow to the brain.

Fainting is a common problem, accounting for 3 percent of emergency room visits and 6 percent of hospital admissions. A person may feel faint and light-headed (presyncope) or lose consciousness.

Understanding Fainting

So what causes us to faint? Many different conditions can cause a person to faint. These include heart problems such as an irregular heartbeat, seizures, panic or anxiety attacks, low blood sugar, anemia and problems with the nervous system.

The most common type of fainting spell in children and young adults is called a vasovagal attack or neurally-mediated syncope. A vasovagal attack happens because blood pressure drops, reducing circulation to the brain and causing a loss of consciousness. Typically an attack occurs while standing and is frequently preceded by a sensation of warmth, nausea, lightheadedness and visual "gray out." If the syncope is prolonged, it can trigger a seizure.

While fainting may indicate a particular medical condition, sometimes it may occur in otherwise healthy individuals. Fainting is a particular problem for the elderly, who may suffer serious injuries from falls when they faint. In most cases, the individual who has fainted regains complete consciousness within just a few minutes.


  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Sweating
  • Blurred vision, seeing spots
  • Headache
  • Sensation that the room is moving
  • Ringing in the ears (see tinnitus)
  • Nausea, vomiting
  • Paleness
  • Tingling or numbing of fingertips and around lips
  • Bluish cast to the skin
  • Shortness of breath


Call your doctor if:

You have an unexplained fainting episode. Especially if the episode occurs during exercise, happens during heart palpitations (feeling the heart beat irregularly) or if you have a family history of recurrent fainting or sudden death.

Tests & Treatments

A heart evaluation usually starts with an electrocardiogram (ECG), which measures the electrical activity of your heart to look for heart arrhythmias. Other tests, such as an exercise stress test, Holter monitor, or echocardiogram may be needed to rule out other cardiac causes of fainting.

If you suffer from episodes of fainting, the type of treatment your doctor offers will depend on the cause of your fainting spells and how often you experience them. Infrequent non-heart-related fainting may not need to be treated. You may be given certain medications to manage the underlying problem, or if you have an irregular heartbeat you may need specific medicines or other treatments.


  • Investigators set up search base at jet crash site

    Investigators set up search base at jet crash site

    Friday, August 1 2014 8:03 AM EDT2014-08-01 12:03:23 GMT
    Ukrainian authorities said Friday that at least 10 government troops were killed in an ambush by pro-Russian separatists in an area near the wreckage of Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, but international inspectors...
    With the sound of artillery fire in the distance, dozens of international investigators arrived Friday at the zone where a Malaysia Airlines plane crashed in eastern Ukraine and began preparations to comb the rural area...
  • Iraq's top Shiite cleric appeals to politicians

    Iraq's top Shiite cleric appeals to politicians

    Friday, August 1 2014 7:38 AM EDT2014-08-01 11:38:15 GMT
    The United Nations says 1,737 people, mostly civilians, were killed in Iraq in July, marking a dramatic decline from the previous month, when some 2,400 people were killed as Sunni militants swept across large...
    Iraq's most influential Shiite cleric is appealing to politicians not to be "an obstacle" in the process of transition as Iraq nears a deadline to select its next prime minister.
  • 35 killed, soldier missing as Gaza truce unravels

    35 killed, soldier missing as Gaza truce unravels

    Friday, August 1 2014 7:22 AM EDT2014-08-01 11:22:40 GMT
    A three-day cease-fire in the Gaza Strip has gone into effect following heavy Israel-Hamas fighting.
    A Gaza cease-fire quickly unraveled Friday as violence erupted in and around the southern town of Rafah, with 35 Palestinians killed by Israeli shelling and the military saying one of its soldiers may have been abducted.
Powered by WorldNow

WSLS 10, P.O. Box 10
Roanoke, VA 24022-0010

Telephone: 540.981.9110
Fax: 540.343.3157
Email: news@wsls.com

Can't find something?
Powered by WorldNow
All content © Copyright 2000 - 2014 Media General Communications Holdings, LLC. A Media General Company.