The treatment of fainting depends on the diagnosis.
- Lifestyle alterations: Drink plenty of water, increase salt intake (under medical supervision), and avoid prolonged standing.
- Lifestyle alterations: Sit up and flex calf muscles for a few minutes before getting out of bed. Avoid dehydration. Elderly people with low blood pressure after eating should avoid large meals or plan to lie down for a few hours after eating.
- Medications: In most cases, medications that cause fainting are withdrawn or changed.
The treatment for cardiac syncope is very specific to the underlying illness. Valvular heart disease often requires surgery, while an arrhythmia might require medications or other treatments listed below.
- Medication and lifestyle alterations: These treatments are designed to optimize the heart’s performance while limiting its demands. Controlling high blood pressure, for example, would involve medication and lifestyle changes. In some cases, specific anti-arrhythmic medication may be prescribed.
- Surgery: Bypass surgery or angioplasty is used to treat coronary heart disease. For some valve problems, valves can be replaced. Catheter ablation is available to treat some arrhythmias.
- Pacemaker: A pacemaker may be implanted to correct the heart rate, slowing the heart in certain types of fast arrhythmias or speeding up the heart for slow arrhythmias.
- Implanted defibrillators are used to control life-threatening fast arrhythmias.
Fainting, which medical professionals call syncope (pronounced SIN-ko-pea), is a temporary loss of consciousness. Fainting is caused by a temporary loss of the brain’s blood supply and can be a sign of a more serious condition.
Fainting (syncope) has many different causes.
Vasovagal syncope: Also known as the “common faint,” this is the most frequent cause of syncope. It results from an abnormal circulatory reflex. The heart pumps more forcefully and the blood vessels relax, but the heart rate does not compensate fast enough to maintain blood flow to the brain. People older than 45 years of age rarely experience a first “common faint.” Causes of vasovagal syncope include the following:
- Environmental factors: Most commonly in a hot, crowded setting
- Emotional factors: Stress or the sight or threat of injury
- Physical factors: Standing too long
- Illness: Fatigue, dehydration, or other illnesses