Syncope is the temporary loss of consciousness and posture (fainting), usually caused by insufficient blood flow to the brain. This can happen to otherwise healthy people. Syncope can be caused by low blood pressure (hypotension), which means that the heart isn't pumping a normal supply of oxygen to the brain.
While syncope alone is not life threatening, it may sometimes be a symptom of a more serious condition that could be life threatening and should be treated promptly. Syncope may occur due to an irregular cardiac rate or rhythm, metabolic abnormalities or anemia.
Other causes of syncope, particularly among children, include, but are not limited to:
- Head injury
- Inner ear problems
- Low blood sugar
- Breath-holding episodes
In about one-third of cases, the cause of syncope is unknown.
Any change in the amount of blood your body distributes can cause you to faint. Patients may feel faint (especially following a meal or exercise), dizzy or lightheaded (presyncope). Feeling weak or unsteady while standing may be signals you're about to faint.
You can control a "syncopal event" by learning the signs and sitting or lying down and elevating your legs as soon as those signs present themselves.
About 30 percent of people who experience one episode of syncope will have a recurrence. The underlying cause of syncope and the patient's age, gender and presence of other medical conditions will affect the course of treatment and methods of prevention.