Fainting - Describe Your Experience

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Introduction to fainting (syncope)

Fainting, "blacking out," or syncope is the temporary loss of consciousness followed by the return to full wakefulness. This loss of consciousness may be accompanied by loss of muscle tone that can result in falling or slumping over. To better understand why fainting can occur; it is helpful to explain why somebody is awake.

The brain has multiple parts, including two hemispheres, the cerebellum, and the brain stem. The brain requires blood flow to provide oxygen and glucose (sugar) to its cells to sustain life. For the body to be awake, an area known as the reticular activating system located in the brain stem needs to be turned on, and at least one brain hemisphere needs to be functioning. For fainting or syncope to occur, either the reticular activating system needs to lose its blood supply, or both hemispheres of the brain need to be deprived of blood, oxygen, or glucose. If blood sugar levels are normal blood flow must be briefly disrupted to the whole brain or to the reticular activating system.

Fainting is not caused by head trauma, since loss of consciousness after a head injury is considered a concussion. However, fainting can cause injury if the person falls and hurts themselves, or if the faint occurs while participating in an activity like driving a car.

Fainting is differentiated from seizure, during which patients may also lose consciousness.

Return to Fainting (Syncope)

See what others are saying

Comment from: JLO, 35-44 Female (Patient) Published: April 08

I fainted in college, faint when I donate blood and recently when my youngest was admitted for pneumonia while there they were swapping his IV (I am not squeamish). I told the nurse I thought I would faint, walked to the bed, got to my knees and passed out, came to and passed out again. I tend to be dizzy a lot. Back in college the neurologist said I have an abnormal normality, in other words X percent of population has this neurologic abnormality that makes it totally normal. I feel light headed before an episode usually warm/hot/ stuffy/like I'm going to get sick, then the black spots move in and I know if I don't get to a 'safe' position I may or may not go out. Everything is fine afterwards, we chalked my last episode up to exhaustion and dehydration.

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Comment from: Rita, 25-34 Female (Caregiver) Published: May 09

I fainted at my uncle's wife's funeral. My aunt was only 36 years, young with 3 kids, 19, 17, and 11 years of age. I was devastated because we were very close, her loss was agony to me. When I saw her in her casket, I recall thinking the embalmer did an extraordinary job, then suddenly, I felt tingly all over and my legs felt like jelly and then I fell backwards in to a friend's arms. Twenty seconds later I awoke in a chair with people around me who told me I fainted.

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