Mysterious episodes of fainting spells can be quite scary for those who experience then.
Far too often, fainting is chalked up to stress or other mental health issues.
However, reoccurring fainting spells, also known as syncope, could be an important symptom that can point to a more serious, underlying cardiovascular condition, according to medical experts at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago.
“People who suffer from mysterious fainting episodes often live in fear because of these frequent bouts of unconsciousness that can happen at any moment,” said Dr. Kousik Krishnan, a cardiologist and director of Rush's Arrhythmia Device Clinic.
Patients who suffer from unexplained syncope have to modify their daily activities significantly, and the condition can greatly impact their daily lives. In many cases, they are unable to drive a car, must quit working and cannot be left alone. Also, because of their frequent fainting spells, patients end up in the emergency room or admitted to the hospital multiple times. They are told that they are under stress, anxiety or heat exhaustion and often treated with anxiety medication.
“Some types of syncope can be triggered by emotional stress, but other types of syncope can be caused by cardiac conditions, metabolic disorders and neurological issues,” Krishnan said.
Syncope caused by a cardiovascular condition can be especially challenging to diagnose because abnormal heart rhythm activity may be infrequent or not apparent to the patient, Krishnan said.
Conditions causing cardiovascular syncope include heart attack, heart failure, heart rhythm disturbances, obstructed blood flow, abnormalities of valves and low blood pressure.
Syncope is a debilitating condition that affects more than 1 million Americans each year. It is the cause of about 10 percent of elderly people's falls and costs the U.S healthcare system more than $1 billion annually. The risk of syncope increases with age and is becoming more common as the population ages.
People suffering from chest pain, shortness of breath, blurred vision, bouts of unconsciousness, and slurring of speech should seek medical help immediately and go to the emergency room.