Fainting is loss of consciousness caused by a temporary lack of oxygen to thebrain. Known by the medical term "syncope," fainting may be preceded by dizziness, nausea, or a feeling of extreme weakness. When a person faints,the loss of consciousness is brief and he/she will wake up as soon as normalblood flow is restored to the brain. Blood flow is usually restored by lyingflat for a short time, which puts the head on the same level as the heart sothat blood flows more easily to the brain. A fainting episode may be completely harmless, but it can also be a symptom of a serious underlying disorder.Fainting should be treated as a medical emergency until the cause is determined.
Fainting can be caused by extreme pain, fear, or stress, standing still or erect for too long, osteoarthritis of the neck bones, a disease such as Stokes-Adams syndrome, weakness in the limbs or a temporary problem in speaking caused by obstructed blood flow in vessels passing through the neck to the brain,pregnancy, or low blood sugar. Fainting can also be caused by: Prolonged cough, straining to defecate or urinate, blowing a wind instrument too hard, remaining in a stuffy environment with too little oxygen, or a temporarydrop in the blood supply to the brain caused by a transient ischemic attack (sometimes called a mini-stroke). Seek help immediately if a fainting spell isfollowed by any of these symptoms: Numbness or tingling in any body part, blurred vision, confusion, difficulty speaking, or loss of movement in arms orlegs. A few seconds before fainting, a person may sweat or become pale, feelnauseated or dizzy, and have blurred vision or racing heartbeat. Once the person loses consciousness, the pupils may dilate as the heart rate slows down.There may be abnormal movements. Muscles may tighten or the back may arch. These movements do not last long and they are not violent. In most cases, the patient regains consciousness within a few minutes, but the fainting spell maybe followed by nervousness, headache, nausea, dizziness, pallor or sweating.The person may faint again, especially if he or she stands up within 30 minutes.
Most episodes of fainting are a one-time occurrence. When a person repeatedlyfaints, a physician should be called. Most of the time, a person who faintsends up lying on the floor. If this happens, the patient should be rolled onto his or her back. Because someone who faints often vomits, bystanders shouldkeep the airway open. A person who is fainting should not be held upright orin a sitting position. These positions prevent blood flow to the brain and may bring on a seizure. Bystanders should check the patient's breathing and pulse rate. The pulse may be weak and slow. If there are no signs of breathingor heart rate, the problem is more serious than fainting, and cardiopulmonaryresuscitation (CPR) must begin. If breathing and pulse rates seem normal, the person's legs should be raised above the level of the head so that gravitycan help the blood flow to the brain. Belts, collars or any other constrictive clothing should be loosened. If the person does not regain consciousness within a minute or two after fainting, medical help should be summoned. After afainting spell, the person should regain normal color but may continue to feel weak for a short time. Lying down quietly for a few moments may help. In most cases, an attack of fainting is not serious. As soon as the underlying pain or stress passes, the danger of repeated episodes also is eliminated. If aperson is feeling faint, unconsciousness may be prevented by sitting with the head between the knees or lying flat with the legs raised. A person who hasfainted should lie flat for 10-15 minutes after regaining consciousness to give the system a chance to regain its balance. Standing up too soon may bringon another fainting spell.