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Syncope (fainting) is a sudden and brief loss of consciousness that occurs due to insufficient blood and oxygen flow to the brain. Sometimes preceded by dizziness, lightheadedness, blurred vision or nausea, fainting is usually accompanied by muscle weakness (which causes you to fall), extreme pallor and, in some cases, respiratory distress. When someone faints, you should lie them down and lift their legs to improve blood circulation.

Types of syncope

There are different types of syncope, namely:

• Reflex syncope can be vasovagal or situational in nature. It can be caused by intense emotion, pain, coughing, stress, fatigue, swallowing or urination. This is the most common type of fainting. Since the trigger is usually the same, it’s possible to recognize the warning signs and avoid the fall.

• Orthostatic syncope is caused by a drop in blood pressure, due to a sudden change of position, certain medications, or pregnancy, for example. It can also occur after eating (especially in seniors).

• Cardiac syncope is linked to a heart condition (arrhythmia, cardiac arrest, tachycardia, etc.) and requires urgent intervention.

Aside from the more dangerous cardiac syncope, fainting is usually benign. However, the fall that follows can cause wounds, bruising or broken bones and have serious consequences if you’re driving, swimming or on the stairs. In any case, it’s best to see a doctor to determine the cause and take the appropriate measures (avoiding triggers, limiting blood pressure medication, treating the heart condition, etc.).

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