Collapsed lungs can cause spasms

What is syncope?

In syncope, also known colloquially as fainting or collapse, the brain is briefly no longer adequately supplied with oxygen and unconsciousness occurs. The depth and length of unconsciousness can vary, but most people can be addressed again quickly.

Recognize signs and act

The muscles relax due to the unconsciousness. This can lead to an uncontrolled fall.

Recognize warning signs - take action

Syncope can be indicated by nausea, sweating, dizziness, paleness and sometimes palpitations or palpitations. It often helps to lie down and put your feet up, or at least to sit down. Squatting down, crossing your legs, or tensing the muscles in your arms, legs, buttocks, and stomach may also help prevent syncope. However, if cardiac arrhythmias are causing the syncope, loss of consciousness can occur without prior notice.

Have the cause clarified

A brief loss of consciousness, usually lasting only a few seconds, is usually harmless. However, syncope can also be triggered by an underlying disease. You can also injure yourself if you fall. So tell your doctor about your fainting. If you do not remember yourself, witnesses can relate the event. Your doctor will then ask you whether you have any previous illnesses and whether you are taking any medication.

He will then do a physical exam and do a 12-lead electrocardiogram to check your heart electrical activity. He will also conduct a so-called active standing test with you, also known as the shortened Schellong test. The blood pressure is measured while lying down and standing. Further tests will help your doctor rule out other triggers such as hypoglycaemia in diabetes mellitus or epilepsy. If necessary, further investigations are also carried out.

Different triggers

Syncope can have various causes:

Reflex syncope or vasovagal syncope

If the autonomic nervous system reacts more intensely to a stimulus, the blood vessels expand reflexively and the pulse and blood pressure drop. This form of syncope can be triggered by strong feelings such as shock or pain or by standing for a long time, for example at a concert or while at work. In the so-called carotid sinus syndrome, a blood pressure receptor in the carotid artery is overly sensitive. Then a movement of the head or a tight shirt collar that presses on the receptor can lead to fainting.

Cardiac syncope

This form of fainting occurs as a result of heart diseases, for example certain cardiac arrhythmias. If the heart valve is calcified and narrowed, for example in the case of a heart valve defect such as so-called aortic valve stenosis, the heart can no longer pump enough oxygenated blood into the vessels and it can lead to unconsciousness.

Orthostatic syncope

If you stand up from a sitting or lying position, the blood sinks to the lower half of the body and the blood pressure drops. Usually the body can regulate blood pressure. Sometimes it happens, however, that the body cannot compensate for this drop in blood pressure - the result is fainting. A lack of fluids, for example in the case of severe diarrhea, can lead to less blood circulating in the body and lower blood pressure. Medicines that, for example, lower blood pressure or are used for depression can also disrupt the compensatory mechanism and lead to fainting.

Treatment options

Treatment arises from the cause of the syncope. If you have seldom recurring vasovagal syncope and no previous illnesses, you usually do not need any further treatment. Your doctor will point out triggering situations and exercises, such as specific tensing of muscles, that may prevent syncope. If the syncope was triggered by an underlying disease, this is treated. If a drug has caused the syncope, your doctor will check the dosage or, if necessary, prescribe another drug with a similar effect.

If these measures are unsuccessful, your doctor may, in certain cases, prescribe medication to reduce the likelihood of future syncope. If you suffer from cardiac syncope, a pacemaker can help reduce cardiac arrhythmias. So-called ablation, in which myocardial tissue is surgically obliterated, which sends additional electrical impulses to the heart and thus triggers arrhythmias, can also be considered. If you have a frequent tendency to syncope due to the circulation, your doctor can prescribe compression stockings to stimulate the blood circulation from your legs back to the heart.

Strengthen your heart and circulation

You can strengthen your cardiovascular system with specific measures such as regular alternating showers and physical activity such as cycling or walking. Targeted standing and falling training can also help. Your doctor or physical therapist can show you how to do this. The following tips can also help avoid future syncope:

  • Drink enough water every day and make sure your body is getting enough salt. Discuss with your doctor which daily amount and salt intake is optimal for you. He can advise you individually.
  • Ventilate regularly, as staying in stuffy rooms can lead to syncope.
  • If you stand for a long time, for example during work or at a concert, you can reduce the likelihood of syncope if you move around, sit down or consciously briefly tense the muscles in your arms, legs, buttocks and stomach. Your doctor or physical therapist can show you more exercises.
  • Taking a sauna can strengthen the circulation, but in people with previous illnesses such as diabetes mellitus or Parkinson's disease it can lead to so-called venous pooling. The blood sinks into the lower half of the body, which can lead to fainting. It is therefore imperative that you speak to your doctor before planning a visit to the sauna.

Provide first aid in an emergency

If someone around you suddenly loses consciousness, first aid measures can save lives:

  • Talk to the person concerned and touch their shoulder.
  • Call for help. Passers-by can help you take care of the unconscious.
  • Hyperextend the person's head back to keep the airway clear. See if his chest is moving and see if he is breathing.
  • Lay the victim in a stable position on their side and dial the emergency number 112.
  • Cover up the victim and observe his or her condition. If he wakes up, talk to him reassuringly until the ambulance arrives.
  • If the victim is not breathing, begin resuscitation.