STARS Patient Information
Syncope can have many different causes. The majority are not life-threatening and can usually be easily controlled. However, a very small minority can be dangerous. As a result, some causes of fainting are more treatable and can be improved with simple self help measures. Others are complex and may require medication or pacemaker options.
Managing your own syncope
As soon as you experience 'pre-syncope' symptoms (hot, clammy, sweaty, nauseous), learn to immediately squat or lie down which could help avoid a complete blackout.
Do not try to fight your symptoms by standing up. You are not stronger than your blood pressure and it will win!
If you are not able to lie down, cross your ankles and tense your calf-muscles as this will help to get the blood pumping around your body and increase your blood pressure, combine this movement with buttock clenching to make effects more pronounced which will alleviate the symptoms. This is a really useful exercise if you are caught at the supermarket checkout!!
If you are able, sit down immediately or, if possible lie down flat and put your legs in the air - for example against a wall or propped up on pillows, if you can it is preferable to do a cycling movement with your legs.
Dr Wouter Wieling, Associate Professor of Internal Medicine at the University of Amsterdam, STARS medical patron demonstrates useful counterpressure manoeuvres, illustrating the direct effect they can have on blood pressure.
Syncope & Diet
Blood pressure and pulse rate can be influenced by what we consume. These changes can be quite dramatic in a patient with Vasovagal Syncope or Postural Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS). This can work to the advantage or disadvantage of the patient.
It has long been recognised that people who are dehydrated are prone to fainting. When fluid intake is insufficient, or fluid loss is excessive, the volume of blood circulating in blood vessels becomes reduced and blood pressure falls. An average healthy adult requires approximately 1.5 litres of fluid per day - when exercising or in a hot environment, considerably more may be needed.
For further information on diet, Download the Syncope & Diet information sheet
Much patience is required in the treatment of syncope as medications that help some may have no effect for others and in some cases make matters worse. Midodrine is one of the more successful drugs and and has few side-effects. Itching, tingling and feeling cold are some of the adverse reactions, but these can easily be controlled by changing the dosage.
Pacing can help some people with syncope who experience a sudden fall in their heart rate (bradycardia). A pacemaker monitors the heart and restores the heart to a normal heart rhythm therefore maintaining blood flow to the brain and reducing loss of consciousness.
If you have any questions about treatment options, please contact STARS: firstname.lastname@example.org