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Near-fainting and fainting are common experiences that occur in many normal people. According to medical literature, about three percent of visits to the emergency room and six percent of admissions to the hospital are caused by fainting. These symptoms are more commonly known as dizziness and blackouts, and while they are often associated with elderly and sick individuals, even otherwise healthy, young people experience them once in a while.

Symptoms

Near-fainting or dizziness is also medically known as presyncope while fainting is called syncope. In near-fainting, a person experiences lightheadedness and feels that he/she might blackout. On the other hand, a person who faints suddenly, but usually briefly, loses of his consciousness as well as his balance and posture. Symptoms surrounding these events may include:

  • Dizziness

  • Having a sensation like the room is moving or turning

  • Weakness

  • Blurring of vision

  • Sweating

  • Seeing spots

  • Headache

  • Ringing in the ears

  • Paleness

  • Nausea, vomiting

  • Numbness or tingling around lips and fingertips

  • Shortness of breath

  • Involuntary urination/defecation

  • Bluish skin color

One usually recovers quickly from fainting or near-fainting, but some people may have low blood pressures for up to 30 minutes and may feel groggy for the rest of the day.

Causes

The most common cause of blackout episodes is a sudden reduction of blood flow to the brain, which is maybe due to:

  • sudden drop in blood pressure

  • sudden change in heart rhythm

  • postural hypotension (drop in blood pressure associated with sudden change in posture)

  • vasovagal reaction (due to an imbalance in brain chemicals triggered by pain, straining, coughing, etc)

  • dehydration

  • anemia

Studies show that postural or orthostatic hypotension is common among healthy adolescents, especially after lying down for long periods.

Other causes include:

  • hyperventilation (rapid, shallow breathing)

  • low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia)

  • fear, panic attack, sight of blood

  • certain medications

  • pregnancy

  • heart disease

  • inner ear disorders

  • ear infection

  • epilepsy/seizures

  • heart problems

  • alcoholism

When to See a Doctor

Fainting is not a normal phenomenon even if the cause is not serious. If you have the tendency to feel dizzy or faint, sit down or if you can, lie down to prevent a fainting spell. Make sure you are adequately hydrated by getting enough fluids. Other measures to prevent fainting include avoiding hunger, dehydration or fatigue, taking care not to get out of bed too quickly and relaxing to avoid hyperventilation.

If you recover from fainting without any injuries, consult your physician to get proper diagnosis and care.

Among people who are taking anti-diabetic drugs, hypoglycemia is a common side effect that can cause temporary loss of consciousness. Monitoring of blood sugar levels and eating a balanced diet may prevent blackouts. If you are taking medications that may cause you to become dizzy, consult your doctor to ask for adjustment of doses.

If you are aware of any condition that may be related to your symptoms, call your doctor for proper treatment.

People who sustain an injury due to a fainting spell must be brought to a doctor immediately. If you witness a fainting spell and are in doubt on what to do, call 911.

CPR must be initiated if the person is not breathing or not responsive.

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