Fainting Should Be Taken Seriously
Often in movies, fainting is the result of high emotions, pregnancy or even a response to someone bleeding or a spider crawling up a wall.
But fainting, or syncope, shouldn’t be readily dismissed.
Syncope is defined as a temporary loss of consciousness due to insufficient blood flow to the brain. And while fainting can indeed be caused by a wide range of conditions ranging from emotional stress to standing up too quickly, it can also be a sign of a serious heart abnormality. Heart arrhythmias, blood clots, myocardial ischemia, cardiac valve disease, aortic stenosis, heart attacks and heart failure are all heart conditions that can cause a person to pass out.
That’s why Morris Hospital cardiologist Dr. Muhammad Marwali says those who experience any kind of fainting episode should see a physician. Dr. Marwali specializes in electrophysiology, diagnosing and treating people whose hearts have electrical signal disorders.
“People should take syncope very seriously,” Dr. Marwali said, “especially when they also have symptoms of dizziness, palpitations, or heart racing, or if the syncope occurs with exercise.”
When a person passes out, Dr. Marwali said an emergency room visit is recommended if they have had multiple syncope episodes, have passed out without any warning symptoms, or if the episode is associated with chest pain or shortness of breath. If it’s just a one-time event that lasts only a few seconds, he suggests an appointment with a primary physician to determine the cause.
A primary care physician or a cardiologist will first order tests to determine the cause of a person’s fainting episode, Dr. Marwali explained. Blood tests, electrocardiograms (EKG), angiograms and exercise stress tests are all common diagnostic tools.
Patients may also be placed on a Holter monitor for one or two days or on an event monitor up to 30 days that keep records of heart signals during fainting episodes.
Dr. Marwali diagnoses and treats patients whose syncope may be due to arrhythmias, where the heart beats too slowly (bradyarrhythmia) or too quickly (tachyarrhythmia). A person with bradyarrhythmia may need a pacemaker that will pick up the pace of the beats, whereas a person with ventricular tachyarrhythmia may need a cardiac defibrillator ICD implanted that delivers an electrical shock when the heart goes into cardiac arrest.
In the event of a light-headedness or a syncope episode, Dr. Marwali recommends immediately sitting or lying down and calling someone for assistance.
Dr. Marwali sees patients at the Morris Hospital Cardiovascular Specialists’ offices in Channahon, Morris and Ottawa. For more information or to make an appointment, call 815-705-1000.