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Syncope (fainting): symptoms, types, causes and what to do

Syncope (fainting): symptoms, types, causes and what to do

April 22, 2024

We are standing, it is very hot, we just do an intense exercise ... suddenly we feel weak, dizzy, we begin to see only see red or blue spots until finally we fall to the ground, losing consciousness for a few seconds. This is an example of what would happen if we were suffering from syncope or fainting .

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Defining syncope

Syncope or fainting is defined as a transient episode of loss of consciousness , which happens suddenly and unexpectedly due to a decrease in brain flow to the brain and whose origin can be found in a large number of causes.

It is a frequent symptom in any type of population that does not have to reflect a disorder, although in some occasions it can indicate or come due to the presence of coronary diseases or metabolic disorders.

Usually you can find first a series of symptoms that warn the body that something is not working well before losing consciousness, so we can find that syncopes tend to act for two moments.

The loss of consciousness is usually short, it can be almost imperceptible and last a few seconds or a few minutes. However, in extreme conditions in which the causes of the loss of consciousness are serious pathologies, this loss of consciousness may reflect the entry into a coma or even culminate with the death of the patient .

Its two phases

As we have seen, although it may happen that the loss of consciousness is sudden, in a large number of cases the person suffering from a syncope does not lose consciousness without more, but rather presents a series of symptoms prior to its collapse that warn the individual that something is happening. That is why we can talk about the syncope itself and the presyncope.


Presyncope is defined as the set of symptoms that occur before the subject loses consciousness. In these previous moments the subject experience a deep feeling of dizziness , gastrointestinal discomfort, alterations in thermal perception and the sensation of muscle weakness.

One of the most common symptoms is the vision in tunnel which becomes increasingly blurred while light points are perceived (the color of which may vary depending on the person). It is common to have headache and break a sweat in profusion.

Depending on the case, the complete loss of consciousness may not occur if the person is able to rest, calm down or resolve the reason that led to that situation.


The syncope itself occurs when the subject loses consciousness, that is, when he faints. In this situation there is muscular hypotonia total or almost total that causes the subject to fall to the ground if it is not held or supported somewhere, together with the temporary loss of consciousness. The pupils dilate and the pulse slows down.

Types of syncope

As we have said, the causes for which syncope can occur can be multiple and variable. Specifically we can find three large groups depending on whether we are facing syncope caused by cardiac disorders or other causes, the latter being the most frequent.

Cardiogenic syncopes

Syncopes of cardiac origin they are usually the most dangerous and potentially fatal type of syncope, because the loss of consciousness originates in an alteration of the organism at the cardiovascular level.

This type of syncope can come from the blockage or acceleration of the atria or ventricles or of the different veins and arteries. A) Yes, can occur in cases of arrhythmia such as tachycardia and bradycardia, and structural heart disease

Syncope due to orthostatic hypotension

This type of syncope is about episodes of loss of consciousness that They can also be potentially dangerous . In this case there is a reduction in the orthostatic tension or the ability to regulate blood pressure.

It usually occurs in episodes of hypoglycemia (malnutrition or diabetes are usually causes of this type of syncope), dehydration, loss of blood due to bleeding or consumption of certain drugs or substances. Its causes must be dealt with very quickly or else the life of the subject may be endangered.

Reflex or neuromedial syncope

It is the most common type of syncopes and known, present in most of the population without there being any known pathology.

They include vasovagal syncope, which comes from vagus nerve stimulation generally due to situations such as high temperature, standing or doing too fast movements, physical pain, anxiety or the experience of emotions or extreme situations. Situational syncope is also frequent, which is linked to a specific situation.


The syncope or fainting is usually a transient alteration in which the sufferer ends up recovering without any type of sequelae. However, it is necessary to establish what the causes have been, especially in patients with previous cardiac problems. In fact, a sudden syncope due to cardiac causes could be a symptom of heart failure and end with the death of the patient.

In cases not derived from heart problems, the treatment to be applied may change depending on its cause concrete Many of them are produced by voltage sags that do not involve danger and have spontaneous recovery, such as those produced by vasovagal reactions.

However, or may occasionally occur as a result of hazardous conditions as a hypoglycaemia in people with diabetes . In this case it is essential the rapid consumption of sugar or any food or drink that contains it before the loss of consciousness takes place, as well as hydration and resting for a few moments, looking at the blood sugar level.


In case of loss of consciousness the administration of glucagon may be necessary (not insulin, which is usually the injection carried by those affected by this metabolic disorder, since it would have an opposite and harmful effect) by the medical services or a known or close friend who knows the amount to administer.

In cases that are due to high anxiety, it is recommended to avoid the stressful situation temporarily, although if it is recurrent it could be advisable to do tasks that allow the progressive habituation and adaptation to the anxiogenic situation . Tranquilizers and beta-blockers may also be used if necessary. If it occurs in the elderly and in the event of changes in position, the use of compression stockings that can help regulate blood flow is recommended.

In the case of cardiac conditions, it is necessary to the rapid intervention of medical services , who will perform the most appropriate treatment according to the specific cause. This can range from the administration of anticoagulant, a defibrillator, the performance of surgery or the implantation of a pacemaker.

Bibliographic references:

  • Moya, A .; Rivas, N .; Sarrias, A .; Pérez, J. & Rova, I. (2012). Syncope. Rev. Esp. Cariol. vol.65, 8. Barcelona.
  • Hairstyle, R. (2014). Presyncope: A symptom with the same prognostic significance as syncope? Rev. Esp. Cardiol. Vol.57 (7); 613-6.
  • Gutiérrez, O. (1996). Syncope: Diagnosis and treatment. Rev. Perú Cardiol .; XXII (1): 30-38.

VasoVagal Syncope (April 2024).

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