Fainting, blacking out, passing out — these are all descriptions of the same thing, and they mean your brain isn’t getting enough blood and oxygen. The description alone is scary enough, never mind the experience, which is why we want to spend some time discussing fainting in this month’s blog post.
Here at Gill Neuroscience, our team specializes in neurological issues, and fainting certainly falls under our many areas of expertise. In the following, board-certified neurologist Dr. Paul Gill outlines a few key points to keep in mind about fainting and when seeking our help is a very good idea.
As we described briefly, fainting occurs when there’s a sudden drop of oxygenated blood flowing to your brain, which can lead to reduced consciousness or a total loss of consciousness. When you faint, it typically lasts for just seconds or minutes.
Medically known as syncope, this is different from losing consciousness due to head trauma, which involves the brain, not the blood flow to your brain.
In general, there are three roads to fainting, including:
Since low blood pressure and a drop of blood flow to your brain are behind fainting, it makes sense that cardiac issues are often behind the problem. When a heart condition hampers circulation in your body, the issue can play out in terms of fainting.
If something pinches your carotid artery, which is the main blood vessel to your brain, you can faint. This something can be as minor as turning your head too far in one direction or as severe as strangulation.
This is fainting on the heels of a stressful event that sets off a vasovagal reaction. This reaction slows your heart and lowers your blood pressure, often quite suddenly.
There are other issues that can lead to fainting, such as certain medications, seizures, and a drop in blood sugar. In reality, we don’t know the cause in about half the cases of fainting, especially if it's a one-time event.
Fainting even once can be alarming, and we feel it’s always a good idea to investigate further. If you’ve fainted more than once, then it truly is a sign that you shouldn’t ignore.
We want you to consider that about one-third of people injure themselves when they faint. This means that getting to the bottom of your fainting event could prevent an injury, especially if you’re older. Fainting occurs twice as often in people over the age of 70 and four times as frequently in people over the age of 80.