Fainting: A Real Issue For Some Women   no comments

Posted at 5:41 am in Health

faintingI have two vivid memories of my daughter’s birth last year. One, the event itself; the other, my never-squeamish, six-foot-three-inch husband suddenly going pale and squatting on the floor with his head between his knees, just minutes before she entered the world. Luckily, he was back on his feet in time to witness the birth.

My husband’s wooziness took us both by surprise. After all, here was a male who, only six months before, had unflinchingly pasted my bloodied forehead together with bandages after I had a spill on all icy sidewalk. He joined a motorcycle club! But feeling faint is a common reaction to physical and emotional stress. In my husband’s case, he had been standing for at least six hours of my labor, and he was probably over-whelmed at tile prospect of seeing childbirth for the first time.

One in three of us will pass out at some point in our lifetime. Doctors often can’t pinpoint a cause, because by the time help arrives (if it’s called in the first place), the person is usually fully recovered. So it’s chalked up to a “spell”–end of story.

But sometimes fainting can be the first sign of a serious disorder. Here, what women need to know.

FAINTING HAS A FIRM FOOTHOLD IN our cultural folklore. In the nineteenth century, ladies seemed to routinely experience “the vapors” (as it was called back then) whenever anything mildly shocking crossed their paths. Today, when a soap-opera character faints, it’s TV shorthand for “she’s pregnant.” But what actually happens when we feel woozy is a little less romantic. Simply put, fainting is a brief biological brownout in your head, a momentary loss of consciousness due to a lack of blood flow to the brain. It can happen for reasons as simple as getting tip too fast from a reclining position. That’s because blood, which has pooled in the lower extremities, doesn’t travel back to the head quickly enough.

Another common culprit is overstimulation of the vagus nerve, which extends from the brain to the stomach and is involved in breathing, speaking, digestion, and swallowing. The nerve may become overactive in response to physical or emotional stress. “This leads to a sudden drop in blood pressure, which may temporarily decrease blood flow to the brain,” explains William F. Young, M.D., an associate professor of medicine at the Mayo Medical School at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN.

The warning signs are familiar: light-headedness; sweaty, clammy skin; slight nausea; and a temporary loss of peripheral vision. Occasionally, We literally see stars, says Stuart Lewis, M.D., an assistant professor of clinical medicine at New York University School of Medicine in New York City, who recalls almost fainting after watching an operation for the first time. Normally, the body is able to rush blood to the brain in time to prevent a spell. If it can’t, we lose consciousness and crumple to the ground, where our prone position allows blood to flow back to the brain. We come to in mere seconds–little the worse for wear. (Easy to say for those who have never had the pleasure of waking tip on the sidewalk with 20 bystanders peering down with curiosity and concern.)

Most of the time, what causes us to feel faint isn’t serious–and can be avoided. But even if you pass out only once, it’s important to see your doctor to rule out an underlying medical disorder. Common triggers include:

Stress Shock, pain, fear, anxiety, or emotional trauma, such as seeing blood or witnessing the death of a loved one, can cause fainting. Sometimes the culprit is as innocuous as a routine injection. “Some people get woozy at the very idea of a needle,” says New York City dermatologist Pat Wexler, M.D.

Dehydration Insufficient body fluids may reduce blood flow to the head. Be sure you get plenty to drink, especially if you’re active.

Heat Sweltering weather–or a stuffy room–can lead to excessive sweating and dehydration. This causes blood vessels to dilate, allowing blood to pool in the extremities–away from the head.

Rising suddenly our heart has to work against gravity to pump blood to the brain. If you experience light-headedness, give yourself more time to get out of bed or to stand up after squatting.

Straining Lifting something very heavy, having a terrible coughing fit, or dealing with a bout of constipation can cause blood to temporarily pool in the blood vessels.

Anemia young women with a low red-blood-cell count are usually iron deficient and at risk for fainting because the brain isn’t getting enough oxygen-rich blood, says Melvin Pinn, M.D., a family physician in Charlotte, NC. Fortunately, iron supplements can help.

Medications Tricyclic antidepressants, like Elavil and Pamelor, may lower blood pressure, and diuretics dehydrate you. Excessive doses of blood-pressure medications, such as beta blockers and vasodilators, may decrease blood flow to the brain.

Hypoglycemia Low blood sugar may cause fainting because the brain is starved of energy. Wendi Picker, 36, from Alexandria, VA, thought nothing of her lifelong fainting episodes until they started coming on suddenly. “When I almost fainted while I was driving, I got scared and went to the doctor, who discovered that I had hypoglycemia, and I was a borderline diabetic.” Picker now has her condition–and her fainting spells–under control with a sensible diet and frequent snacks.

OF COURSE, FEELING FAINT OR PASSING OUT CAN SIGNAL A more serious condition–diabetes, epilepsy, heart disease, or arrhythmia. “Usually, when people have more serious disorders, they tend to keel over suddenly,” says Dr. Young. “With common causes of fainting, people tend to sink to the floor gently.” If you experience jerky movements and seizures while passed out; you’re confused, disoriented, or have trouble speaking afterward; you’ve lost bowel or bladder control; or you don t recover within one to three minutes, See your doctor immediately.

If you’ve passed out and your doctor can’t pinpoint a cause, You’re not alone. In a recent Study, doctors who evaluated people who fainted Couldn’t identify a cause in one third of the cases.

Some perfectly healthy people are simply more prone to fainting than others. Fm something of a textbook case. I once passed out after giving blood. I fainted after a glass of wine at lunch–and after the news from my doctor that I had miscarried. And I passed out once in an Australian desert town in 120-degree heat, waiting in line at a bank. As is the case with many “benign” fainters, doctors never found anything wrong.

Occasional fainter Kathleen Levine, 31, who is married to a man who also experiences spells, had a different experience, but drew the same conclusion. “In the past, doctors, suspected I had everything froth hypoglycemia to anemia–you name it, I had it,” she laughs. “But I know I’m healthy. I tend to faint when I’m in the sun too long, if I’ve skipped meals, or when I’m in a lot of pain–like the time I stubbed my toe at summer camp.”

While knowing and avoiding your fainting triggers can help stave off a spell, it’s also essential to know what to do when you feel an episode coming on (see “What to Do If You Swoon”). The last time I fainted was in a restaurant, about three days before my daughter was born. I should say almost fainted, because this time I knew what to do. I recognized the warning signs and put my head between my knees. The blood rushed back to my head, and I didn’t blackout.

What to Do If You Swoon

Tell someone nearby that you feel faint. Then, lie down, or, while sitting, Put your head between your knees. “That helps stop the pooling of blood your lower extremities and makes it easier for blood to get back to the brain”, says Stuart Lewis, M.D., an assistant professor of clinical medicine at New York University School of Medicine in New York City. “And if you do faint, you’ve got a lot less far to fall.” Take your time getting back on your feet to avoid a recurrence.

If you see someone who is about to faint or who has already passed out, here’s what to do:

* Help her lie or sit down, and instruct her to put her head between her knees.

* If she’s down, call 911. It’s better to be safe than to ignore a possibly serious underlying cause.

* Don’t move her–just in case there’s been any trauma, like a head or neck

* When she comes to, make Sure she doesn’t get up immediately, Which could trigger another episode.

* Be a good witness: Report the length of the episode–and any seizures or Jerky movements–to her or the medical professional who arrives on the scene.

Written by TheEditor on September 19th, 2015

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