Fainting & Passing Out: When is Fainting Serious?


Dec 22, 2019


Turn on any soap opera, and there is no doubt that at some point during your viewing, you’ll see someone faint. You’ll watch as the character slowly falls on the nearest piece of furniture – unable to comprehend the scene that has unfolded before them. But, for some Americans, fainting isn’t an act to stimulate drama. It’s a real condition that occurs suddenly with little indication. Why does fainting occur, and when should someone who has passed out visit an emergency room?

Causes of Fainting & Passing Out

Fainting is a temporary loss of consciousness that typically occurs from insufficient blood flow to the brain. Fainting is caused by a variety of conditions, ranging from mild to life-threatening. Some of the most common causes of fainting and passing out include:

Types of Fainting

There are two specific categories of fainting spells – pre- or near-syncope and syncope. Pre- or near-syncope occurs when you experience symptoms of fainting, including falling and losing consciousness, but you remember everything. Syncope is when you’re experiencing fainting and its symptoms, but don’t remember the part where you fall.

Aside from these two categories, there are three different types of syncope:

  • Vasovagal syncope involves the vaus nerve and is triggered by emotional trauma, stress, and standing for long periods of time
  • Carotid sinus syncope involves the carotid artery and results when the neck is constricted
  • Situational syncope is caused by straining and occurs when coughing, urinating, moving your bowels, or experiencing gastrointestinal issues

Symptoms of Fainting & Passing Out

Losing consciousness is the most sure-sign of fainting, but there are several symptoms that occur before passing out. These signs act as warnings, and usually occur before you fall/slump over and lose consciousness. The most common signs before fainting include:

  • Heaviness in the legs
  • Blurred or tunnel vision
  • Confusion
  • Feeling warm or hot
  • Lightheadedness, dizziness, or a floating feeling
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Vomiting
  • Yawning
  • Becoming pale
  • Reduced blood pressure
  • Weak pulse

When should you go to the ER?

Serious issues that cause fainting include heart problems, which temporarily lower your blood pressure. In these scenarios, you may experience palpitations — your heart is skipping a beat or racing — shortness of breath, or chest tightness. Experiencing these symptoms are clear indicators that you should take a trip to the emergency room. Make sure that you either call an ambulance or have someone else drive you – never drive yourself.

If you experience minor fainting episodes caused by suddenly standing up or heat exhaustion, then you may not need to visit an emergency room. An exception is made if falling after fainting has caused damage to your body – including concussions, fractures, or other severe injuries. If you’ve hit your head when fainting, are excessively bleeding, or are in pain and seemed to have broken a limb, have someone drive you to an emergency care clinic or call for an ambulance.

Diagnosing the Cause of Your Fainting

Whether you’re visiting an emergency room or your regular doctor, a physician will first check your blood pressure and identify any medications in your medical history that can cause the issue. They’ll draw blood and perform a series of tests to check for irregular heartbeats, then determine if you’ve been experiencing syncope or pre- or near-syncope.

Your doctor will also talk to you about your symptoms and try and help you identify what triggers your episodes. In some cases, lifestyle changes may be suggested to avoid heat exhaustion, reduce hunger, or eliminate stress – since these are some indications of minor fainting causes.

Treatment Options

If you have underlying health conditions that caused you to faint, then you’ll need medical treatment. Your doctor will be able to create a treatment plan for your condition and help you identify triggers to prevent future issues.

If you suffer from vasovagal syncope, then avoiding triggers like seeing blood will help you reduce your risk of fainting or passing out. If you notice symptoms of syncope starting to occur, find a safe place to play down to avoid getting hurt. Often, this simple act can also prevent passing out altogether. Make sure to rise slowly to reduce blood pressure from pooling.

Emergency Services in Colorado Springs and Texas

If you or a loved one have experienced a fainting episode, we can provide the care you need. If you have questions or need immediate treatment, your nearest Complete Care location is ready to help, no matter the time of day or night. We offer a variety of services to help you and your family in your time of need. No appointments are necessary.

Find the Complete Care location nearest you.