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Vasovagal Syncope

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Biology 202
2003 Second Web Paper
On Serendip

Vasovagal Syncope

Laurel Jackson

My best friend "Dirk" can easily be picked out of a crowd. His 6'7 stature, impressive muscle mass, very blond hair, big blue eyes, and booming voice cause many people to stare at him-once, in Europe, a Japanese couple asked if they could take a picture of him. Addicted to weight lifting and athletics, my friend does not always enjoy admitting that he is a computer engineer-yes, my 22-year-old buddy is still afraid of the geek label. There is something else to which Dirk will not readily admit-he faints at the sight of blood. In fact, many things can trigger his fainting spells: blood, vomit, overheating, etc.

Dirk lives next door to my parents; we grew up together. Recently, he and my sister ran over from his house to ours, which is a distance of about 50 feet. My sister had not worn shoes; when they got to our house, they walked through two rooms before Dirk got dizzy. My sister had cut her foot, and the blood that had spread over the tile floor made Dirk turn his head away, and sit down. My mother ran to the rescue-Dirk's, not my sister's. She helped him breath deeply, and luckily he avoided fainting.

A few Christmases ago, Dirk caught a stomach virus. He made it to the bathroom just in time, but seconds after vomiting, he fell to the floor, and blocked the door. His parents frantically tried to open the door, they tried to revive him by screaming for probably five minutes, which seemed like an eternity to them at the time. Eventually they revived him.

The summer before that Christmas, Dirk was golfing with his high school's golf team on a hot July afternoon. At the end of the course, he and his coach walked to the parking lot. All of a sudden, Dirk toppled like a tree onto the pavement, suffering a concussion on top of fainting. Dirk's condition is called vasovagal syncope. Stubborn as he is, he often gets angry with his mother, a nurse, for fussing over him. But his mother knows from 22 years of experience that whether it is a particularly hot and humid day, or it is receiving a vaccination, Dirk will pass out unless he takes the proper precautions-resting, breathing deeply, and staying hydrated.

Vasovagal Syncope, also known as fainting, neurocardiogenic syncope, and neurally mediated syncope, is a very common condition, occurring in roughly half of all people at least once within their life; three percent of the population develops it repeatedly. It is not a serious condition.(2) A vasovagal response involves a decrease in the volume of blood that is returned to the heart, which enervates the baroreceptors(2) in the sympathetic nervous system to increase the force of each contraction of the heart. Consequently, the opposing parasympathetic nervous system is alerted to slow the heart rate and dilate the surrounding veins and arteries. These responses of the nervous system cause the blood pressure to drop very low, causing syncope (loss of consciousness).(1) Most patients are young and healthy, although vasovagal syncope can occur in the elderly population that has preexisting cardiac problems. Extremely hot weather and blood-alcohol levels are typical triggers. Some patients suffer from several, often attacks, while others may only experience them sporadically.(3)

While standing, the blood tends to settle in the legs. Maintaining the position for a long time can decrease blood pressure, which means that the brain may not receive proper blood supply. Lack of sufficient oxygen and nutrients can lead to syncope. In general, people do not pass out from standing upright. Mechanisms within the body control blood pressure. In a condition such as vasovagal syncope, the mechanisms do not perform their functions in the appropriate manner, misfiring, over-firing, or under-firing. Faulty mechanisms in the nervous system make syncope a possibility.(3) The mechanisms occur in everyone as we adjust to a new posture. Those with vasovagal syncope have an abnormal reflex to this information-there is an inundation of the messages from the barorecptors, and this overcompensation causes the halting of messages sent from the brain to constrict vessels, and the reverse is communicated, vessels dilate, less blood reaches the brain, and fainting ensues.(2)

In general, physicians use the tilt table test to determine if a diagnosis is necessary. The patient is placed in a quiet room, on either a hydraulic lift of swinging bed that can rotate between 60º and 90º, moving the patient from supine to head-up position. Heart rate and blood pressure are monitored throughout the test. Although some variation in technique exists within practicing physicians, the patient is usually monitored in the supine position for five minutes, and baseline heart rate and blood pressure measurements are taken. Next, the patient is moved into the head-up tilt position, and changes in blood pressure and heart rate, and the appearance of symptoms are noted every three to five minutes. If the patient experiences syncope, the patient is returned to the supine position, and they are considered diagnosable. If no symptoms of vasovagal syncope are recorded after at least ten minutes, often the tilt test is attempted again, this time giving the patient isoproterenol, which often shortens the amount of time before syncope occurs. When isoproterenol is used, physicians usually require a loss of consciousness in the patient in order to support a diagnosis of vasovagal syncope.(4)

Medicinal treatments include beta-blockers, fludrocortisone, midodrine, and SSRIs (selective seratonin reuptake inhibitors). Beta-blockers block the adrenaline system, preventing the abnormal reflex of the sympathetic nervous system that precedes the decrease of blood pressure. Fludrocortisone sends a message to the kidneys to retain more salt and water, thus increasing blood pressure. Midodrine tightens blood vessels. SSRIs are usually used in the treatment of depression or anxiety, but they also block the communication in the brain that triggers the blood vessels to open further.(2)

Instead of subjecting themselves to medications, patients with vasovagal syncope tend to choose lifestyle changes, and in most cases, this is all that is necessary for controlling the condition. Both recognizing their personal triggers, and learning to recognize when an episode is about to occur are necessary; an increase in the amounts of water and salt intake can prevent attacks. Blood is primarily composed of water and salt, so by increasing the amount of each, blood pressure may rise, possibly preventing syncope. More of both are needed especially in hot weather, or when vigorous exercise is performed.(2)

Patients who seek treatment outside of modern medicine often turn to licorice root, also known as sweet root. One of the active ingredients is glycyrrhizic acid. It has been used worldwide for thousands of years to treat a variety of ailments. Recent studies have shown that is useful in the treatment of heart disease. When consumed in large quantities, licorice root can raise the level of aldosterone found in the blood. Although this would be considered negative in most individuals, the increase of aldosterone can increase blood pressure, which is helpful in those with vasovagal syncope. If blood pressure increases around the time of a vasovagal episode, the constriction might counteract the activity of the parasympathetic nervous system, reducing the chance of syncope.(5)

Although vasovagal syncope is not a serious medical condition, those who suffer from its effects, like Dirk, cannot write off its impact on their lives. Tough guy to the core, he believes that taking beta-blockers or any other medication would be admitting that he is incapable of controlling himself. As I researched vasovagal syncope for this paper, I tried to explain the physiological processes that occurred in the body that had nothing to do with personal choice, and all though he was interested, he still maintains that he can control the episodes. I hope that this paper proves to everyone else who does not have a hard head that vasovagal syncope is not a matter of choice, apart from the choice of exposure incidents. I have asserted throughout this paper that vasovagal syncope is not a serious condition; it does, however, provide an interesting platform for research. I assumed, when I began researching, that I would find evidence of scientific research apart from merely understanding the process of syncope. Much of the knowledge seems to have been gleaned from observation of drug effects, so there has been no treatment specifically designed to treat vasovagal syncope. Perhaps more research will lead to more conclusive knowledge about the condition.


1)Med Help International, This website offers a forum for those with medical questions, allowing them to ask the advice of a physician.

2)London Cardiac Institute, This organization provides information to patients on several conditions. The patients are referred to the pages by their physicians.

3)Karen Yontz Women's Cardiac Awareness Center, Health Wise Physician's Corner provides information about several medical conditions.

4)Tilt Table Test

5)Health and Age



Continuing conversation
(to contribute your own observations/thoughts, post a comment below)

10/01/2005, from a Reader on the Web

Laurel Jackson's article about her friend Dirk's vasovagal syncope was helpful to me, as I have had about 10 such episodes in my life, maybe more, and mostly due to intense abdominal pain. The last 3 episodes (in 3 years) have included seizure-like symptoms, and even if I lay down on the floor when I feel a faint coming on, I still go out. I'm looking for more info about the abdominal pain trigger. thanks Linda Khandro

11/19/2005, from a Reader on the Web

To Laurel Jackson author of Vasovagal Syncope: The article you wrote was very helpful. My situation is very similar to Dirk's but yet a little different. I recently had an episode of Vasovagal Syncope and then spoke to my doctor about it a few days later. It was the first time anyone had ever give me a name for the condition. Although I had been having episodes of Vasovagal Syncope from the age of 12-48, I hadn't had one in 14 years. I thought maybe I had outgrown it. Unlike the article you wrote, of the approximate 15 times I've passed out, in all but 1, I threw up immediately following passing out. And threw up and threw up, etc. In several cases, I passed out again several more times in the next few hours and continued to throw up. Three or 4 of the last 4 times, I've ended up going to the emergency room because I was so nauseated and couldn't eat or drink anything without throwing up. In the emergency room, they gave me IVs to replenish my fluids. Within a few hours I felt great and had no further symptoms. It seemed as if passing out way the way my body forced me to throw up. So, if I threw up it seemed like I wouldn't pass out. This last time it caught me by surprise. I felt like I had to throw up that morning when I got up, but I passed out before I had the chance to throw up. My concern is how to live with Vasovagal syncope without ending up in the emergency room with each episode. I naturally have fairly low blood pressure. It normally averages around 105 over 65. It seems like my body can't increase my blood pressure level naturally. You also mentioned that dehydration can cause it, but how can you rehydrate when you keep throwing up. If you anyone has any suggestions I would welcome them. Nancy Beckman

11/29/2005, from a Reader on the Web

I haved searched high and low for answers to this condition.I have had 3 episodes this year once having to get stitches put in my head from banging into a coffee table.All these episodes of blacking out were all accompaniedby intense abdominal pain.It is an embarrassing condition.The last time I blacked out it took about 15 minutes to be revived,not to mention I had just started a new job and was working that day.All of these episodes had me hospitalized with no answers.Ihave also seen a neurologist and had tests done and nothing was determined.I just dont want to live my life this way not knowing when it will happen again.If anybody has this condition I would really like some support from others dealing with this.

01/01/2006, from a Reader on the Web

I just read an article by a student concerning Dick and his vasovagal syncope episodes. What I wanted to express is that although this condition is not life threatening it still can be potentially a dangerous situation. My mother was a nurse and firmly did not believe in pampering me, so when I was growing up and sometimes fainted she would just tell me to drink more water from now on. I never did find out why I would faint as often as I did until my early 50's when my aunt, who is also a nurse explained to me this condition. By that time I had several small scars on my face, numerous broken glasses, and a chipped front tooth- all the results of my falling when I faint. If I am lucky, I will faint on a carpet floor, but more likely I end up fainting on the bathroom floor and hitting my head on the bathtub or tile floor. It may sound like I faint all the time, but not really, usually averages once every yr. But if I had only known what it is and why it happens, I could have prevented my fainting long ago. Armed with this new information, I will be much more diligent to drink my water, watch out for the symptoms, and not stand for long periods of time. Thank you so much for articles like these. Gayland Leann Cotton

01/15/2006, from a Reader on the Web

Hi. I found this website randomly in a search for "vasovagal syncope" and after reading the article that was written about Dirk a big strong man with fainting episodes, I can totally sympathize with him. I am a 26 year old female who has been experiencing the same symptoms on and off since I was very young- which I have been calling "passing out"-but now that I've been an ER nurse for almost three years, I can tell you that I would not just accept such a condition as normal without completely researching it myself. Crazy thing is, I recently had such an episode a few hours ago after two years of not having had any syncopal episodes. The last fainting episodes I have experienced over the years were brought on by a classmate lanceting my fingertip during a bio lab where the room was extremely warm, direct trauma to my body where I banged my knee or elbow really hard against something sharp, severe abdominal cramps during menstruation, and most recently today it was triggered by going from hot to cold to hot environments and not having had any breakfast or fluids since the night before. I know that this is something that I can control now- but I want to educate people who feel this is abnormal that you are not alone. When I experienced it the first few times and my family or friends were around it was pretty scary for them. I would feel very dizzy and then lose consciousness and either drop to a chair and fall from it or if i was on the floor my eyes would roll back and I would fall and start twitching slightly as I have been told by witnesses. For the first 30seconds to one minute I wouldn't be able to hear anything going on around me...but then I start to come out of the blackout very slowly but hear loud buzzing in my ears and feel this paresthesia...pins and needles sensation all over my I am there but not really there. After coming completely out of it five minutes later I would get up feeling very weak and tired...nauseous and vomiting..sometimes developing a headache which takes time to get over...a few hours to the whole day. I just wanted to share my experience and also give you these few tips- If you feel like you are experiencing the warning signals of an impending vasovagal syncopal episode--dizziness or feeling lightheaded,buzzing sensation in your ears,nausea,vomiting,visual disturbances after some emotional or physical stressor is introduced--- 1.DROP to the FLOOR...dont try to sit in a chair because you will fall off and end up injuring yourself. 2.PUT your HEAD between your KNEES if you are sitting on the floor and breathe slowly and deeply to try to prevent the episode. 3.If you can lay in a flat position you can let the blood go from your legs to your upper body and head--this will raise your blood pressure and prevent the syncopal episode from occurring most times. 4. Preventive Measures-Make sure you drink plenty of fluids like water,gatorade before going out to work or school in the morning. That does not include tea or coffee which dehydrate you and drop your blood pressure further!! Things with salt and water will increase your blood pressure. Try not to stand for long time periods-standing up in church for hours without sitting down, moderate to extreme exercise routines and not have any food or drink in your system periodically. 5.Get to an ER or your private doctor or neurologist if you do not feel well or can't recuperate after such an episode and make sure they rule out any cardiac related syncope which is a much worse situation than vasovagal syncope. 6. EKG,Head CT, MRI of the HEAD should all be normal if you have vasovagal syncope such as I did. Table tilt testing is another option I haven't tried but this is used for medically inducing the syncopal episode in the presence of healthcare professionals. Thanks for reading and stay healthy! Seema


Additional comments made prior to 2007
I am still trying to understand this vasovagal syncope. I have had A-fib and Tacycardia show up on some of my tests. I also have what they call Pill rolling tremors. I don't know if other people with this have these problems. I can't help but thinking maybe they are not finding something more that could be going on. If anyone else has these other problems with this I would love to know for peace of mind. I am only 27 and my quality of life is very poor because of constant symptoms at least 3 times a week. Any information would be greatly appreciated ... Alisha Broussard, 31 January 2006
Thanks for posting your paper. I used to be a chronic suffer of this crappy condition. Until diagnosed, I would experience the faint sensation several times a day. I felt weak and it seemed to be unrelenting. I struggled for two years terribly, confined to my bed for most of it. I remember my first experience of feeling faint around the age of 10 I am not 36. For the last three months I have been taking a blocker. I didn't start to feel better until I combined it with an anxiety medication and haven't had an episode since. I was never one for drugs, I too thought It was a sign of weakness but I am now so excited to have my life back ... Jody, 22 February 2006

I am a 56 year old woman who began mysterious blackouts in 1999. When witnessed they appeared to be seizures, so I was diagnosed with adult onset siezure disorder and promptly put on seizure medication. Although I have had 7 "episodes" since my first one, not all were witnessed, nor did I realize that while I was having seizures I was really "flat-lining." Following a car accident in a distant area from my home, a wonderful physician informed me, after studying my tests and taking my history that I had more than likely been misdiagnosed. After "failing" a tilt table test I was finally able to discover what was really wrong with me. I feel much better about being able to control these episodes now with education, beta blockers, and hydration. I was never aware that my low blood pressure could be a problem.. I am really angry that I spent 7 years of my life with the wrong diagnosis and the wrong meds. I look forward to controling my life from now on and NEVER having another episode ... Carol, 12 March 2006



Hi, after reading this I had to talk about my husband Tim who is 39 and has been having episodes for awhile noe. The worst part is my husband is a type a personality and the first time he had one we were fishing and he almost drowned because he fell overboard. We didnt realize what it was at the time but the nezt episode happened on a fight. He felt dizzy abd sick to his stomache and thought eh was going to passout. I was not with him during this flight and did not make any connection to the boat incident, until a couple of years later our fqamily was on a flight heading to a huge family cruise in San Juan- only 1 hour into the flight he panicked and passed out...more like seizures. It happened three times before they finally landed. And after tests done at home after returing, they diagnosed him with this vasovagus syncopy. Now two years after the cruise incident, he upon awakening is going down the stairs in the morning on the way to work and trips down the stairs....being in so much pain from the fall he tells my ten yr old to get me. Upom findng him he is laying in the kitchen completely unconsious yet with eyes open and talking incoherently. call 911 and his diagnosis is that the cat scan was must have been the fall that triggered the vasavagal syncopy....??? The worst part was my husband had no memory of the past two weeks immediatly after the incident. He could not tell me what day it was or that he had travelled to Arizona (and had an attack of kidney stones..which is quite memorable in my book) He was confused and kept asking the same questions. I understand the vasovagel nerve issue but why the confusion. His cat scan was normal so I am hoping it was just somehow related to the incident and his memory is returning...but being a self employed, type a peronality...I worry...alot. Just venting a little, since this happended today. Have to admit (between us) I thought the worst and thanked god for the outcome ... Laurel D, 19 September 2006


About four weeks ago now my husband had been real sick, then was out all day the next day in the heat and sun. He wasn't eating well or drinking and by the end of the day was absolutely worn out. (Looking for car parts with family)

When he got home, we talked for about 20 minutes then he went to shower. Upon standing up from taking his underwear off, he passed out. No biggy (sorta)but he went into what looked like a seizure. We both work with students who have epilepsy and I thought instantly that's what it was. It was followed by odd behavior as he "came out of it" like talking about stuff that wasn't there and blissfully telling me things were OK and smiling way too much. I thought he had had a gran mal, then complex partial seizure.

Once we got to the hospital he was completely normal. They ran all the appropriate tests and told us it seemed like vasovagal. I was still concerned but nonetheless happy. We are having our first child and seizure disorder, well....that would be a tough one for both of us.

After we got home though, he had another weird small "faint" - he was going the bathroom then went to get on the bed and passed out a little. Then when I found him in only a few seconds, he was talking a little crazy again. Slightly slurred speech. So I took him back to the hospital. He came out of it quickly and was again fine at the hospital, but I was so worried.

He was diagnosed there with epilepsy. We were to follow up with a neurologist but the hospital doctor, the same one who diagnosed vasovagal and nothing more, was now certain it was seizures.

My husband, while on the seizure medication continued to have these weird blackouts and then recoup with nonsense while talking. Sometimes he would just very gentle lose his awareness and come back. Usually completely fine and unaware of what happened. Once he has tingly hands afterwards.

For five days he had these weird episodes that happened usually while standing or sitting. One time he was propped up against the bed in a half seating/recline. That's where he had his longest one. 30 seconds of odd movements on the ground and completely blacked out. Then just popped out of it and had no recollection it happened.

On the 6th day, the day we saw the neurologist, they suddenly stopped and have gone away since. He's now back at work and we are slowly taking him off the meds. Our family physician, neurologist and several doctors since then have said it just never seemed like a true seizure but were at a lost as to what I was seeing. However very much aware it seemed a lot like vasovagal.

All tests: MRI, CTs, two EEG's, blood and everything came back normal. He never responded to the meds like he would've if it were seizures. I am almost completely convinced now it is vasovagal because of other peoples information of symptoms.

My husband it 22, completely healthy and fit and we just got out of the Army. But by being severely sick one night and depriving himself of sleep, food and water all day the next for something like car parts put us on this path of hearing "epilepsy" come up again and again. Now hopefully, with everyone basically agreeing (myself included knowing what I saw and watched several times) maybe this "thing" my husband suffered through now has a real name everyone can agree on ... Cherish, 4 October 2006


Reading of others' vaso-vagal syncope episodes has been very encouraging to me. Aside from George Bush Sr. (remember when he passed out and threw up at that banquet in Japan years ago?), I didn't know anybody else who has this condition. I've had a total of 7 episodes in my life, but am concerned because their frequency has been increasing lately. Fortunately, I've only sustained one injury after a faint (fell off a chair onto the floor, hit my head and got a black eye), but the fear of another is very troubling. My latest episode was the first time I woke up having urinated instead of thrown up. (Both equally embarrassing.) Now I'm finding that even a week after this episode, I still feel vaguely nauseous off and on, lightheaded and dizzy, afraid that I'm going to pass out again. I've been drinking my usual stomach-calmer, ginger ale, and have added Gatorade to my diet to increase salt intake. Can anyone recommend any other ways to get rid of this persistent nausea? Or does this mean that I haven't recovered from this latest episode? ... Jane Trucksis, 10 October 2006


I see lots of postings looking for answers or further research. Has anyone received a response. I too have a serious vasovagal reflex. I had a comprehensive work up last year in 05 including tilt table tests, echos, holter monitor, CT of my head. It was aggravating because even after trying meds, i still failed the tilt test. Yesterday was the first time I have had an episode WHILE LAYING DOWN with my knees up. I was in the process of getting an MRI with contrast for my shoulder. The needle was in my shoulder and I was doing fine. Then of course the symptoms started coming.

I passed out and the nurse said I had seizure symptoms, which I have had in the past but any sort of seizure disorder was ruled out. I was out longer than normal, 30-40 seconds. My problem goes a step futher. WHEN I PASS OUT, MY HEART STOPS. I always come back, so far, but this time it was longer than normal.

I'm a 27 year old seemingly normal professional. I have got to solve this. Hypnosis? Psyche? Magic? I am open for comments... suggestions ... Gregg Field, 7 December 2006


Hello. I am Karri Kreilick. I am 13 years old and the tilt table test is for any age! I am from ohio and I have neurocardiogenic syncope.

I just recently had the tilt table test done. That is a very successful test and it helps. I have to take FLUDROCORTISONE for the rest of my life. I have been fainting ever since before Kindergarten. I really think that neurocardiogenic syncope has really affected my life in many ways. Its very hard for me to do things such as play sports, run, breathe, and much much more.

I was just going to say that the tilt table test is very successful and that if there is someone out there that you know that has fainting episodes about every now and then, than refer them to go to their doctor and recommend the TILT TABLE TEST ... Karri Kreilick, 11 December 2006



The information about Dirk was good to hear. I want to find out more about Licorce Root though. I have Neurocardiogenic Syncope. I was diagnosed on May 30,2006. It is true that you shouldn't try to sit while fainting if possible. I have however learned how to faint while seating up without falling by leaning against a wall or something on the side of me like a table or countertop. I faint mostly from losing blood either through injury or through having my period. I have fainted one while moving my bowels, and once by getting stitches removed. This is a serious medical concern for all who have it. I myself consider it an severe medical problem because it means I can't do most jobs. I do try to exercise, eat right and drink plenty of fluids. I hope this helps somebody out there ... Mary Casey, 14 December 2006






Thanks for the article by Laurel Jackson on Vasovagal Response. My husband has had three of these episodes during our ten year marriage. During stitches in the ER or minor office surgery at the dermatologists, I at first thought it might be a reaction to the Lidocaine or dehydration. The last proceedure (March 15, '07) in the dermtologists office, the doctor called it a vasovagal response. After research on the internet, I feel that all his episodes were vasovagal. We have prevented his passing out completely by lowering his head to flat, encouraging deep breaths, cool cloths on his forehead, applying oxygen in one situation and smelling salts were also used another time. Certainly being well hydrated in the future before a proceedure will be helpful ... Carole Lusser, 16 March 2007



This is a very interesting article. In the past two years I've "passed out" twice. Once with stomach pains and the second time from hitting my elbow extremely hard. Knowing to drink plenty of fluids and possibly some extra salt is extremely useful. Thank you for this article! ... Reader on the web, 20 October 2007



Hello; My name is Sylwia and I'm writing this letter behave my cousin Natalia. Natalia lives in Poland and after many months she was diagnosed with "vasovagal". It was something new to me and my family. She was passing out few times per day, every day. Many times she was landing in a hospital because her heart stopped beating. Few times the doctors had to preside with reanimation and electric shocks. Now she is 18 and because of the fact that she is sick, she can't attend to school anymore. She is still passing out, however not that often as when she was attending school. I'm very concern about her and her health. The doctors in Poland said that they can't do anything. The only hope for Natalia is to wait and see. There is a possibility that when she grow up, she will get better. I'm asking you if you can help my nice Natalia with your knowledge. Maybe there is something that can be done now. The prospective of "just waiting" is really horrible. Natalia is a really great, beautiful and smart person. She is full of live and she deserves a great future ... Sylwia, 2 January 2008


nicholas's picture

my constant dread of these vaso vegal episodes

Ive suffered vaso vegal syncope for a number of years but starting this january, they have been coming increasingly common...Im almost dreading going out now.. Ive had seven to date these last six months, two major ones both of which the ambulance was called, once I was taken to hospital.. anything at all seem to provide the conditions for its occurrence but more commonly, coming home at night, and the two mile walk from the bus stop with a tired body.. the stress of walking increases the risk, twice out walking Ive had minor episodes in the last two months, a few days ago, while entering our village, tired, sweating, I tried to make it to a grassy bank but failed and collapsed in the road, at the side.. mercifully it was only a minor episode, but not very pleasant to be lying almost face down at the side of a country road..!!!!

the episodes occur seemingly at random, not always in a situation of stress, when I go out I monitor my head for changes in pressure and watch my vision, both clear signals a collapse is due.. often I can find a place to sit and may just beat a collapse but its not guaranteed..Im always looking for a clean dry place to collapse on the ground if need be!!! its become a very serious issue with me now...its practically keeping me housebound or at least staying trying to get disability status for this now...

Greg Marlow's picture

evolutionary benefit

Having experienced vasovagal syncope myself I have come to the conclusion that it provides an evolutionary benefit to the species as a whole by increasing the probability of death of the individual. If the individual doesn’t recognize any benefit they make to the species the brain invokes syncope so that the individual doesn’t compete with its other members for resources. The fact that it is a unique response of humans is because of our high social interdependence.

Serendip Visitor's picture

full recovery from Vasovagal syncope

A few years ago, I had originally posted info about fainting due to vasovagal syncope. Yes it was really bad and I landed in the ER. Medical community (20+ specialist visits) could not fix my problem. Good news though-episodes gradually went away. I did two things after spending many long months suffering: drink water with a bit of salt upon awakening in the morning (did this to increase BP) & when it's very hot in the summer, head for cooler grounds or ensure I don't get over-heated. Problem lessened and went away in a few months.

What originally caused this problem remains a mystery. When it originated, I had repeated dentist visits in which I was over-anesthetized -irritated the vagus nerve?).

Just wanted people out there to not give up hope.

Guest Mel's picture


I do sympathize with all who have this. I have not yet had my Tilt Table Test, however, am just reconfirming things by doing so. Mine started when I was 16 and in the eigth month or pregnancy with my first child. "Yes, too young" but none the less, it was so. I have had several occurances since of the fainting, and with the last 3 episodes having incontinence, and the last one bit my tongue laterally on the right side.
I had priorly been diagnosed as having epilepsy and when moving to a new state and a new doctor, it was then changed to syncope. Of course, I was not given any details so I was left unaware knowing anything more than that. I did not even realize that there were different types of syncope. My episodes have almost always happened in public, which has several pro's and con's as you know, and once, while at a hospital for someone else.
I do not have a pulse or blood pressure, and do not breathe when I go out, and almost always am out for 4 minutes. It normally took me a matter or minutes to recooperate and was up and around normally within a half hour or so with a little remaining fatigue. This last episode took a matter of 15-30 minutes before I was able to move my limbs to get into a wheel chair and at least a day and a half to be up walking again. It was about a full week or so before the fatigue was no longer running the daily show as I call it.
I do have other medical issues such as pernicious anemia, fibromyalgia, 3 bulging discs in both lumbar and t10-t12. I also have degenerative arthritis and as you can imagine depression and anxiety. I do not let this illness run my life with the more pressing issues such as pain going on in my body. However, would like to note that the worries of when the next episode is gonna strike is by far one of the most devastating effects ,as pride is a big part of who we are as humans.
I now have episodes about 1x's a month and always hope and pray I can just once have my pride by wetting my pants in the middle of my own floor instead of in public:) I do still continue to work a full time job of 40-80 hours ,standing most of those, a week by grinning and bearing it. I can not take most meds either due to stomach intolerance or allergies.
I just wanted to give some facts so if anyone is out there trying to find info as I and many have, online, there are many symptoms and circumstances they can relate to. Love to all of you and hope someday there will be better answers and treatments:)

O visitor's picture

Vasovagal syncope

I've had this for 40 years and never knew there was a name for it or that it was a "real" thing until a recent, ugly episode when an ER doc told me what it was (thanks!). For me, the episodes almost always happen at home, and I can recognize the triggers/prodomes and lie down quickly to head off the full-blown episode. Unfortunately, I've had several episodes in public in which I've fully and completely passed out, peed on the floor, whacked my head on things, etc., because I was too embarrassed to do what I knew I needed to do (lie down flat, elevate my feet and wait it out). For me, squeezing my legs and the other tips listed on the internet are too complicated for my brain to process when I start to get that tunnel vision -- flopping on the floor works best for me, even if I look like a weirdo!

Adrian Jackson's picture

vasovagal syncope

I have had these same symtoms and problems that i have been reading about but my problem is that my blood pressure tends to run high (very high) . Then out of the blue it droops low and i droop with it . When i come out of my black out spells it will slowly start to rise again. Does anyone have this problem as well ?

sheila's picture

Vasovagal Synscope

Please notify me if any thing comes up on Vasovagal synscope. My daughter was just dignosed with this. We have been thru a lot of testing in the past year. Thanks

Jessie's picture

A life-long vasovagal syncope sufferer

Hi there! I have been fainting from the time I was 3 until the present (I am 27), and never really thought there was anything I could do about it. In the past year, my episodes have been getting worse and worse. It got to the point where I was afraid to go to the doctor or dentist, or even take a trip for fear of fainting at the office or in the car or plane. After being paralyzed with fear and "woozyness" on the way to get my teeth cleaned, I started seeing a therapist and have had great success decreasing my episodes. You should look into therapy for your daughter. The fainting will never go away completely, but the vagal nerve in your brain can be re-trained to not be so sensitive. My therapist has helped me to be less sensitive to my triggers, less anxious about an episode occurring, and given me tools to use when I start feeling an episode coming on. When your body is tense and anxious, the chances of fainting are much higher.

It is a scary condition to have (and to watch happen- my mom can sympathize with you!), but there is hope for it to get better. The human brain is an amazing thing, and has the potential to be re-trained. I have been amazed and what a difference therapy has made for me!

Serendip Visitor's picture

Syncope not serious?

With all due respect, falling down is pretty serious. The bones and tendons of your wrist and skull don't seem to enjoy smacking pavement after awhile. I didn't think it was serious either until I broke my wrist. My Dr noticed a bunch of lesions on my back and ordered a biopsy showing systemic mastocytosis. That is a potential life threatening disease. I'm not saying everyone with syncope has mastocytosis, but it definitely warrants a thorough evaluation. Older persons have fragile bones as well, so I wouldn't consider a hip replacement surgery due to a fall as 'not a serious condition'. Just my two cents though.

Serendip Visitor's picture

Hi, I'm am 21 and have had

Hi, I'm am 21 and have had this condition since I was 8. It took me 8 years until I finally found a consultant willing to find out what was actually wrong with me or atleast try to find out. I've read that many of you only have this happen like maybe once or twice a year, well I am very unlucky with my episodes of passing out.
Everyday I suffer from VVS without failure. I am constantly giddy or dizzy (which is one of many side effects for me), but unlike most people I don't really have a trigger which makes them happen, they just happen for no reason. I've had them happen due to: stress, heat, abdominal pain, depression, blood, needles, even Lieing down on my bed etc.
Its got to a point now where I've had enough, I'm only 21 and I have to be so careful in everything I do and nothing seems to help me! I'm lucky I get so many warning signs before I actually pass out, which of course still enables me to drive but the impact this is having on my everyday routine is mad.
See I'm a full time carer and people rely on me a lot. I love my job to pieces but how am I meant to work when half the time I'm so ill, if ant even get out of bed! It's even began to have a strain on my relation with my partner and friends, as they don't fully understand it and because they can't physically see a problem, they think I'm putting it on.
If anyone has any advise for me please help me. It upsets me on a daily basis, as I feel like I can't control it no more and that I'm not in-control of my own body anymore.

Jessie's picture

Hi there- I just replayed to

Hi there- I just replayed to Sheila above. I am 27 and lately was passing out once a month. I cannot imagine passing out every day. I am so sorry that you are dealing with this. I started seeing a therapist about my vasovagal, and it has worked wonders. You should seriously consider trying therapy. Part of the reason mine was so bad was because I was in a constant state of anxiety and stress because of it. Once you start worrying about it and letting it consume your life and thoughts, it starts happening even more. It is like a self-fulfilling prophecy- the anxiety you feel about the lack of control over your own body floods your body with stress hormones, and the presence of those hormones prime your vagal nerve to hit the panic button and send you into another episode. Luckily, you and your vagal nerve can be trained. A therapist can help you get handle on your stress levels, give you physical and mental tools to use when you start feeling an episode coming on, and hopefully help to decrease your episodes. At least try it. I am amazed at what a difference it had made for me. I hope you get better!

Kate 's picture

Me Too!

Wow! In reading over all the posts, I didn't realize so many others have the same condition as myself. Or that so many different things trigger this problem. I have never been diagnosed. I have just been researching this recently in trying to get to the tail end of the chronic fatigue that I was battling. I think I didn't realize how much I was getting knocked out because it has been going on for so long and that it seems like a normal activity.

I have never blacked out standing up so I haven't had to worry about crashing into anything. I'm usually lying down. I can usually tell when it's going to happen--I feel lightheaded & dizzy. In looking back over the years (I'm in my mid-fifties), it seemed to happen on the first day of my period (like I REALLY have to find a place to crash!) and then after the "nap", I'd be ok. I have also had blood draws where my blood pressure falls off and I feel like I'm in a dream as nurses are rushing around trying to help me. I would feel nauseated, sometimes vomiting, weak, off. So the 5 minute blood draw could span to 45 minutes. I never knew what was going to happen. Over the years, this quit happening and I don't have a problem with this anymore. I think it was due to something out of balance, like hormones, or that I was eating tons of sugar at the time.

I never changed my diet to get away from junk food and continued to eat & drink tons of sugary things. It caught up with me and developed chronic fatigue. It took me a long time to figure out the problem, for me, was based on food, digestion, and inflammation. Once I got all those things under control, I was left with trying to figure out how to stop blacking out at night. Sometimes I would be excessively sleepy and other times I would get totally knocked out. I'm by my self and I haven't had this happen in public so I don't know if I twitch or do anything strange. If the TV hadn't been on, I would never even know that I got knocked out! Very strange....and disturbing! Before changing my diet to get all the foods I'm intolerant of out of my diet and addressing the issue of fructose malabsorption, I thought the blackouts were due to being insulin resistant or had something to do with the fruit/sugar I was still consuming. I didn't know it had to do with the internal workings of the nervous system. Yikes!

I'm still working on the trigger. I've learned that I have low blood pressure and need to add more water/salt to my diet. I don't eat processed foods which is good but I need to supplement my diet for the salt. For me, the problem seems that it's related to fructose in terms of (potentially) the amount and density of it. For instance, 1/2 of a grapefruit is ok but 2 tablespoons of pure maple syrup will be the end of an hour, I'm out. I can feel it coming on...slightly tired...then poof! I'm out....when I come to I feel a tad tired and achy. I'm thinking that my body is trying to tell me that something is wrong with eating the fructose and that I need to get this out of my diet. I have just recently removed about 98% of the fructose from my diet and I'm trying to see if that helps. I'm still researching and experimenting (maybe glucose only as the sugar) so that I might be able to work around this problem. I'll have to wait and see! If I can't control the blackouts, I'm fortunate that they only happen (generally) at night and I'm usually lying down. Thanks for all the great stories! Kate

Worried Mother's picture

Vasovagul Syncope in young daughter

I want to thank all who have posted comments, my daughter is 10 right now, and she has been having off and on episodes of vasovagul syncope since she was 4 going on 5 years of age. Her first episode started because she tried to swallow a mouthful of pancake and it got stuck in her throat, resulting in her gagging, vomiting and then passing out! Her skin was sheet white, her lips were blue, and she had lost consciousness. We called an ambulance and at the er we found out that she had this diagnosis. Since then, she has spells, and her latest ones seem to have her with her eyes wide open and her body twitches almost like she is having a seizure. I have called my doctor to see if we can get a referral to a specialist to have the table testing and what ever else may be done to rule out any underlying conditions. I have done some research on this condition and I have found another situation that may have something to do with her diagnosis. When she was just learning to walk as a toddler, she tripped and smacked her head, on her eyebrow, on my bed frame, resulting in her getting cut bad enough to require stitches. I am at a total loss and horribly frightened because I have no concrete reason or answers, as of yet, for the why's and what I need to do to keep these episodes from completely happening to her. I am hoping that I can get to a physician that can give further assistance, because I am completely scared to death!

Serendip Visitor's picture

young daughter

Agree seeing a specialist is a good idea, perhaps a neurologist and cardiologist. Hopefully it goes away for her if you can change something up to break the cycle. My condition "went away" eventually and it seems that drinking half a glass of water with salt in the mornings seemed to do the trick. Cardiologist suggested I do that along with drink chicken broth. Blood sugar issues can also cause a similar reaction so that should be ruled out as well. Eating frequent, high protein low carb small meals would help if that were the case. If you can detect a pattern of when it happens it may be possible to find ways to circumvent it. Solutions are out there...

emilyc's picture

VVS and talking therapies

Anxiety is something we all suffer from at some point in life. If we get anxious our heart rates shoot up and in people with VVS this can trigger a drop in blood pressure leading to pre-syncopal symptoms or can contribute to an actual black out. This can create a bit of a Catch-22 situation as it's easy to become anxious about having the condition, anxious when symptoms start and anxious if we know we are facing a situation where the syncope is likely to or has previously kicked in - all of which is likely to worsen the symptoms or set the darn thing off in the first place! This cycle of anxiety quickly becomes established and it's difficult to think your way out of it or loosen its grip once it's there. No one can avoid feeling anxious completely, we never know what life is going to throw at us, but syncope sufferers can be helped enormously by finding ways to deal with anxiety in general and the ongoing anxiety which contributes to and is caused by their condition. Talking therapies, and Cognitive Behaviour Therapy in particular, have been shown to be really effective in learning to manage anxiety for those with syncope. There's an excellent article on the STARS website about it and you can google CBT and syncope to find more information. For those in the UK, CBT is a therapy supported by the NHS - if you think it might be of help to you remember to print out some info on the subject from STARS or elsewhere to nudge your GP into action, sometimes they need us to help them to help us ;)

For those in the US and elsewhere I am not sure if CBT is covered by health insurance etc but do have a look at the link above and see if you think it's something worth investigating for you. Every little helps with this condition and anything which gives you some personal control over it is worth doing.

Fiz M's picture

I have vasovagal syncope too... and no one else around me does

Hi! I'm glad I've found this site. I had an episode of VS less than a week ago. I've had frequent VS ever since childhood & now I'm 31 and still getting it, although it's becoming less frequent. I haven't found anyone around me yet who has frequent episodes of VS. Doctors tell me I shouldn't worry; but what worries me is the physical injuries that can come during the syncope. So far, I've banged my head & face, I've chipped a tooth and I cut the skin between my lower lip & my chin... just to name a few. It's often a scary experience which I would rather not have repeated, because I have no control of my body when it happens & is very disorienting. People around me get very shocked especially when they first hear of my fainting episodes, and their level of shock sometimes puzzle me a little since I've had episodes of VS so often that it's normal for me although I hate it. VS comes when I'm feeling extremely dizzy, or when I'm in extreme pain, or when I get overly anxious when I'm not feeling well. For example, once I fainted in the dentist's chair when she was removing the stitches from the dental surgery from a week before & I had been feeling weak because the past week I had not been able to eat anything other than rice porridge (I had 4 teeth removed at the same time). I was feeling scared because I felt it hurt when she was removing the stitches and I was afraid it might be too painful to bear, plus she had all sorts of sharp metal instruments in my mouth such as scissors and I was afraid she might poke the most sensitive parts of my mouth by accident. By the way, I also have severe asthma.

Serendip Visitor's picture

Getting healthy again

I feel for everyone posting their stories. I started having episodes last year (after going to the dentist on 5 occasions in a 6 week periode-each time they gave me antibiotics and I strongly suspect that was a contributing trigger-someone needs to study this) also landing in the ER after fainting and falling on my face. After having just about every test done and seeing all sorts of specialists, there was not much they could do for me. Tilt table showed I had vasovagal/NCS. They gave me mitodrine but it made me feel worse. So I went to a naturopath and a chiropractor. I got better very quickly. For the naturopath, I had to have blood drawn when I was feeling unwell (ie-typically in the mornings, lightheaded and such). They found my cortisol level on the low side and gave me Isocort (plant derived cortisol). I also drank half a cup of salt water every morning to give me an early morning blood pressure boost. And I had to lay off running. My episodes went away and were gone until this year, when it got hot again and I went to the dentist. I had a cleaning and they gave me antibiotics. A DAY LATER THE EPISODES CAME BACK AND I PASSED OUT IN MY OFFICE. I think the antibiotics cause an imbalance in the gut, bloating and such which sets off this this problem, for me. So now I need a new solution. Went to the endocrinologist and he said my bloodwork was fine. Heck, I am not fine....So now I am experimenting with creating my own solution, changing up my diet (eating clean and eating protein every 3-4 hrs), taking liquid fish oil and grape seed extract.

Here's where I'm at: medical science does a very poor job of fixing this problem. Vasovagal is an imbalance of the sympathetic and parasympathetic systems. THE SOLUTION IS FINDING THE BALANCE. How to get there- I think- at this point I am turning to non-medical measures: deep slow breathing exercises, yoga, changing my attitude towards stress, working on getting a good night's rest, seeing the naturopath, taking vacation and not working during vacation (very hard for me) pacing myself and being gentler to myself if I am not feeling well. When my episodes start up- my early warning symptom is that I feel my heart start to beat differently and faster. So if I work on deep slow breathing and can somehow make this not happen to begin with, it will not progress to the dizziness and fainting. This year I am deciding to make some changes and working on regaining control.

Just FYI, my medical history: 46 y.o. female, avid runner (or used to be), history of hypo & hyperthyroidism, normal busy overachieving mom. Preceding my episodes, I had 2 stressful years (divorce) which I believe helped set the stage for this. The months leading up to the episodes, I had warning signs: waking up at 2 am, sleeping poorly, breathing erratically at times, belching repeatedly, became asthmatic (that went away), feeling lightheaded in the mornings, no energy, irritable.

My triggers: caffeine (i have no more than 1/2 a cup in the am), sugar, 15 minutes into exercise (I no longer exercise alone now), eating too much, empty stomach.

My current coping mechanisms: putting the AC on the coldest setting in the car (prevents me from having a problem while driving, as well as tightening my stomach muscles), drinking 1/2 water with salt in the a.m., ditching strong alcoholic drinks, no drinking juice, drinking water throughout the day.

I hope you all find your solution. We all deserve a good life. Let's focus on the solution and make it happen.


Serendip Visitor's picture

VVS has impacted my life dramatically

I had my first "episode" at age 6 in the hospital visiting my grandpa. It was the most traumatic experience for me, I was out for 5mins and when I woke up I remember everyone over me screaming my name. Next I felt so light head accompanied with this horrible sick to my stomach feeling, I then vomited on myself because I couldn't get the words out of my mouth to say, I'm about to puke! They rushed me to a room (since I was already in the hospital, which made the whole situation a little better). I remember being given so many tests and I was almost in the hospital for a week. I was so young that my mother or doctor didn't explain it to me, which was probably the worse thing they could of done( even though it was with good intentions not to scare me).

I'm 19 now, and I can't even count how many times I've had these "episodes" since I was in that hospital. However it was about 1year ago since the last episode. I say VVS has impacted my life dramatically because I've always dreamed of being a leader in a health care career. Such as a doctor or research scientist. science/ the human body and every aspect of it's functions is the most interesting and rewarding knowledge for me. Only it's my greatest fear to practice the studies I want to go on to further learn.
Only I am trying so hard to mental encourage myself I can over come this.
VVS has impacted my life to make me fearful but out of my fear I find determination, and that is what has lead me to want to figure out why? Why does this happen to us and how can it be fixed?
So hopefully VVS wont stop me from pursuing a career I've dreamed of, instead I hope to say that having VVS is the reason I found the answer.

I hope that you can also find determination through the fear that develops from having VVS, instead of letting the fear control your decisions.

Serendip Visitor's picture

Truck Driver with vasovagel syncope

My husbane is 63-we were at a family picnic out of town.and it was a little hot but not unbareable- he was sitting in a chair and the last thing he said is that he didn't feel good-he broke out in a sweat-first hot then cold. When I looked over he had passed out-thinking he was having a heart attack - I gave him two breaths-he gurgled and began convulsing. When he came too-he was well aware of who he was and where he was. He said he had bad pain in his lower stomach. Rescue came and took him to the closest ER. All test (EKG,Blood,Chest Xray came back normal. We seen the PCP who is sending him to have an EEG with sleep deprevation, and His cardiogist wants to do a heart cath.-He had a thallim stress test the week prior to the incident-and that has came back normal. My question is-if the thallim was normal-should we spend the money on a heart cath? He can not go back to work until this is resolved,

Marcia Lester's picture

Vasovagal Syncope and Driving

When my Mom was 85, sitting in the dentist's chair, she had a TIA, which is basically a very mild stroke. She gave up her driver's license, immediately. She was afraid she might have another TIA, while driving. Anyone, who has syncope episodes, needs to find the cause and get it treated. In most states, if you have one epileptic seizure you are forced to give up your driver's license. It might be painful, but you are not the only person on the road. Whether you have a seizures or syncopal episodes, you loose consciousness. I am sure, by now, your husband has been diagnosed. If not, try a different physician, or different medical facility(teaching hospitals are usually good).

I wish you good luck and warm holidays.

Allie   's picture

Life experience THEORY: Vasovagal linked to anxiety or PTSD?

I will share my story because reading others' has helped me formulate a better opinion of this strange condition; the former comes after the latter, first:

I'm 18. I first blacked out at 14, before I had even quit eating meat "cold turkey" * I fell straight to the floor, without recolection afterward; those kinds of blackouts are my longest (like 20 seconds, tops), but are rare.

Since, I've had different types of blackouts afformentioned- sometimes with tingling, sometimes with ringing (always muffled) and more recently with a sensation of electricity vapping through the brain.
Since 2nd grade I pretty much played soccer 3/4 of every year and was in good shape, if not a bit under weight. My doctor put me through scans and tilts with nothing abnormal. He diagnosed it as vvs, just said it was normal (I have long legs, if that counts for anything) and gave me natural paths to try (i.e. more water, salt).

It happened a few more times afterward, though. I guess earlier on the spells consisted of more sweating and nausea. Eventually I got an ultrasound and some steroids to take. I was on those for a year and would have maybe every two weeks a faint spell where I would still be standing and my vision would tingle into black for 5 seconds and return. I just excused it and got off the steroids (I don't like taking medication in general), figuring I would grow out of it.

Only last fall it became worse when I moved away to go to school. I noticed the episodes returning more frequently (especially at times when I had smoked marijuanna)- probably 10 on a monthly average. My stress had mounted. I am not proud to say I had an odd anxiety attack for not facing many problems while I was at school. I also have some sort of stress left from stuff in my kidhood. I think that this problem could be directly linked to seratonin, nervous anxiety and depression problems. I'm interested in it. Tell me if you agree.

*I had already had two spells prior to diet change. I read mineral deficiencies could be a factor in vasovagal; at least, that's not what triggered it.

josh 's picture


im 21 yr old man and was diagnosed with vasovagal about 4 months ago i started having episodes when i was 5. i have recently had a pacemaker put in and take toprol its a beta bloker.i have had 250 episodes in the last two sucks to feel sick all the time and not know when im going to faint next.i had to quit my job because of it.i was amazed by how many people have vvs and its helpful to here the different ways people deal with vvs.

Serendip Visitor's picture

i am 21 was diagnosed with

i am 21 was diagnosed with neurocardiogenic syncope last year though im pretty sure i have had it since 10... i have episodes more than once a day ( though some good days with none). u r so right it sucks... i cant work either... but u kno its not all that bad i guess... the few good days are so amazing that i can cherish them even more... not a lot of people can say that you kno... im on a beta-blocker too and even though it doesnt fix me completely it at least keeps me from passing out... dont give up on feeling better there has to be a fix some where out there in the world, its too big for there not to be... :D

Serendip Visitor's picture

vasovagal syncope

My child has suffered with this for two years and its helpful to see that other people know what my family goes through.Most doctors blow us off with its only stress.My child has many supportive friends,good grades and is very athletic.I wish these professionals I go to would read some of the material I have to become better educated instead of judgmental.My teen is part of that small percentage whos episodes become so intense that her whole body shakes,eyes roll back and blacks out.There has been times my child could not remember friends names or her parents.After as long as 30 to 60 minutes she comes back but is exhausted and has to go home.If we are lucky a small episode will just be fainting and coming out of it in 10 minutes.It is very scary to see your child go through this and I appreciate the people who have shared their stories.

Bren's picture

I am 30 years old, and have

I am 30 years old, and have experienced many of the same symptoms for 10 years. Oddly, my symptoms awaken me from my sleep. Normally, I'm asleep and am awakened feeling nauseaus, light-headed, the pins and needles sensation throughout my body, and like my body is physically trying to fight off passing out. Normally these sensations last about 5-10 minutes before I actually pass out. Has anyone else experienced waking up from sleep with these symptoms?

Serendip Visitor's picture

odd symptoms explained

i've been reading with interest the variety of symptoms of vagal nerve fainting. great interest really because i realize that i've been fainting or nearly fainting most of my life without realizing it. i'm now 67 and the symptoms have morphed in recent years. first episode as a teenager, falling on stairs, hitting my elbow and completely losing consciousness. not many episodes for decades but in recent years, i've been occasionally awakened in the night with limb numbness, a feeling of "about to faint," slow, then racing heartbeat, and visual disturbances. now "almost fainting" accompanied by slow heartbeat and nausea occurs quite often, sometimes daily, and usually connected to a bowel movement. If i don't find a bathroom (or a couch to lie down on) immediately, fainting is imminent. symptoms also can occur under a bank of flourescent lights. all medical tests, including MRI and cardiac battery, were negative. i'm now at the stage of managing the episodes by following many of the tips on this website but would like to add one that may help others suffering from this condition. If you place your thumbs in your armpits and press gently and firmly upwards, you'll hit a heart acupuncture point that helps to regulate the vagal nerve, or so it seems.

Bonnie's picture

Yes Bren

I have just started to have this happen to me. I have alerted my doctor and they said that nothing can be done. I have it so bad that during the day if i pass out my heart stops. My tilt table test came back with what they told me was " A very positive result" and they would not elaberate on what this meant. I awake at times during the night feeling a loss of breath maybee? and with a jolt of sorts, i guess is the best way to descibe it. Then as i try to go back to sleep sometimes it feels as though my heart just keeps stopping or something and I am jolted away suddenly again and again. It does seem to stop but it is very scarey as sometimes I am not sure if i will wake up at all. They will not do any further tests for this as they say that this is just part of it. They are telling me that i just have to learn to live with this. I would like to see them "just deal with it"

Serendip Visitor's picture

lightheadedness and near fainting spells

I have been having these same problems since 2009. I had a head injury in late 2007 that cause me to pass out. Since 2009 I have been having spells about 1-2 times a month where I get very lightheaded and nearly pass out, ( but have not ). I have done full heart workups, tilt-table, ekgs, MRI''s, even have wore sensors on my head for a week to check for sez. activity. NOTHING HAS STOPPED. I was put on a beta-blocker after the tilt table, because I only pasted out after the doctor gave me a NITRO pill, (which I have never taken). A year later I went to another doctor @ Piedmont Hospital and he said to stop taking the beta blocker due to me not having vaso-vagal and that 50 out of 100 people would pass out after taking a nitro in that test. The symptoms are now getting WORSE where I am getting very hot feeling and severly lightheaded. All my test are still showing NORMAL and no one in my area can find what is going on!!!!! DOES ANYONE KNOW OF A DOCTOR IN ATLANTA THAT WOULD BE ABLE TO HELP THIS?????? I live about 50 miles from Atlanta but I am willing to drive anywhere as long as the Doctor can figure this crap out. 30yom no other health problems.

cmee's picture

Same boat

My husband is 57 and he experiences the same thing. We live in NJ and going to a doc. in March. I have the name of a man who runs the NMH Dan Smith. keep in touch and let me know what you found out and i will do the same.

Serendip Visitor's picture

i have ncs

I have neurocardiogenic sycope, i have had it for most my life (just not diagnosed until 20). and to me it sounds like u have it too. when mine started to get bad i started having extreme hot flashes, where out of no where i would become extremely hot for no reason. and on more than one occasion i became so light headed i almost pasted out... for me i also had panic attacks, heart racing, blood pressure fluctuations, very very cold hands and feet ( to the point they were blue), and very shaky. i was diagnosed with the tilt-table test, i passed out from the nitro too... did the beta-blocker help? i have been on a beta-blocker for six months now metoprolol and it hasnt fixed me completely but it keeps me up right...i dont kno any doctors in atlanta but i suggest u go to a cardiologist and start from there... doctors kno other doctors that might be able to help u better, even if they dont admit it to begin with just keep asking... also not all doctors that are listed online as this kind of doctor are good for this... its hard but going to doctor to doctor and finding the one that fits ur need is the best advice i can think of... it took me 10 doctors before i found the one i liked... just never give up... it sucks feeling sick and that feeling of just wanting to give up is hard to fight against but one day there will be an end... if u dont like the answer of one doctor go to the next... keep fighting and you will feel better.. just keep moving forward. : )

Serendip Visitor's picture


It seems you could be suffering from neurocardiogenic syncope, an autonomic nervous system disorder (1 of 4 dysautonomia disorders) where your brain does not communicate with your heart and can cause all kinds of weird symptoms, including almost passing out, seizure-like episodes, profuse sweating, low pulse-rate, etc.

I understand that the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida or Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN are two hospitals that deal specifically with autonomic nervous system problems, also known as vasovagal syndrome.

Best of luck to you.

Serendip Visitor's picture


So this is were all of my syncope peoples are at. I have been going through this now since Aug. of 2012 and I was finally diagnosed through the tilt table test several months later. I have roughly 1-3 episodes a week, Im not sure after changing my diet drasticly excersising more less caffine booze and all of that Im still going down just as often. My doctor recently started me on water pills and am still waiting to see the difference. I have now recieved 4 concussions and have messed up alot of furniture. The one thing on here that has really surprised me is how many people are conflicted with this even while there sitting. I thought and guess Im very wrong but it was typicaly a standing condition. I have never passed out from sitting or laying down, infact how exactly does that work.
Anywho thats awfull and kinda scary and I hope mine remains only standing. This has been more scary for the people that love me and are very concerened that I will smack my dome hard enough to kill myselfe. That has been the hardest for me to deal with. I can handle hurting myselfe and well lets face it how much control do I really have over it, but the fact that my little girl and wife are so scared just kills me constantly. I sadly hope either more people get this or it becomes enough of a trend for modern science to figure something out more than well this might work. If not maybe this, or maybe maybe maybe!! AHHHHHHH had this a while but first time venter.

andrea's picture

vaso vagel nerve response

I just wanted to coment on this subject of vaso vagel nerve response. I had always had these passing out spells, every since I was about 9, or 10.The cat scan didn't reveal nothing abnormal at that time, which was way back in the late 1970's. I still would have these all the way up till I was 20, or 30. Then I just suddenly quit having them.So I had an appointment to see my family dr., because I was having a muscle spasm in my right shoulder, so I signed for a cortizone shot, and after the dr. gave me that shot I almost died.I told her I wasn't feeling well, and she got me up on the bed, and had my knees in my chest, and I felt like I was dieing.The dr. ran out of the room, and hollerd for another dr., and an oxygen mask too.My husband jumped up, and asked the dr. if I was going to be o.k.? She said if I can get her heart rate, and her blood preesure up, because they both had dropped down to 40. I had never been as sared, as I was tbthat day.I was having all the symptoms of a heart attack.My dr.reffered me to a cardiologist, and this is what he told me, he said unless I start having them everyday, He just told me to take in a lot of salt.I told him that I drink a lot of diet pepsis every day.He just said to keep it up.I continue to have them periododixally, why? I believe it's because I 've fallen twice on my tail bone, and when that oain flairs up, it triggers that vagel nerve in my heart, and it causes me to feel like, i've got to do number two, so I try to make it to the toilet, and then the next thing that happens is I black out.both times my husband has been there with me.I know I should lay down, but unless you, have ever had these symptoms you don't understand what I'm saying, because when your having a heart attack, you have the feeling of loosing control of your bowels, and you break out in a cold sweat too. It's the vagem nerve in your heart, which we all have, but with some people that nerve is triggered more often than others. I have fallen twice on my tail bone, because my feet flew out from under me, and I"m now badly injured, and I have fibromyalgia too.scolioses too. I have bulging disc in my neck, and in my back too. And just had a cyst removed from my right breast. I have had mastitis in my right breast now every year since 2009 except in in 2011. So all I can tell anyone is just pray, when you feel those vagel nerve responses coming on, because this has helped me.

Serendip visitor's picture

? For you all...

Does anyone here ever have these episodes while lying down? I get very faint, hot and cold, extremely shaky, have a strong urge to have a B.M. & get very bad gas all at the same time. Episodes last anywhere from 5 minutes to 2 hrs. This wipes me out for the rest of the day/evening.

Serendip Visitor's picture

Good Info!!

I was looking through articulars for syncope and i found this i thought it might help some one else too so here it is:
it made me feel better in knowing that there are things that you can do yourself and you can set goals

Serendip Visitor's picture

Neurocardiogenic syncope

hi I am a 21-year-old girl
I was diagnosed with neurocardiogenic syncope on top of all my other problems (chronic migraines/head aces, interstitial cystitis, asthma, type two bio-polar, ect) last year.
I don't just have fainting problems because of it. On a daily basses I feel like I'm going to pass out almost every time I stand. I have been put on medication and yea it has gotten better from what it was before I was diagnosed and that seems to be fine for the docters but for me its hell. It might not be life threatening for but it has taken away my life. I can't drive, its hard for me to go to work and school, and no one seems to really understand how hard it is for me to do anything. They think I need to suck it up and get over it. The only people who seem to grasp that there is something wrong is my dad and my boyfriend who have seen me at my worst (fainting, falling, my heart racing over 150 while just standing, and my blood pressure being 53/90 on a regular bases). To tell you the truth with out the two of them telling me to keep going to doctors to try to figure out why i am still the way i am, i would have given up and just stopped my life, go on disability or something. But I have dreams and my dad keeps telling me that I can still reach them if i want to. all i have to do is fight. but when it seems that the world is against you it is hard to push against the current. I'm posting this because if the docs dont know what is wrong with me maybe someone out in the big world will.

JenP's picture

Vasovagal syncope worsening

I'm really grateful to have found this article. I'm 21 and was first diagnosed with vasovagal syncope when I was 13. I was at a friend's summer house on a humid morning when I felt nauseous. I attempted to make my way to the bathroom but blacked out and seized on my way...and fell into a rose bush. I was in the hospital for a few days to make sure I had no brain damage from the fall, and they performed a tilt table test. I would say my episodes are brought on by dehydration but recently I feel like my symptoms have worsened. Anytime I feel nauseous and need to vomit I lose consciousness for a few seconds. Of course, if I'm already sitting, the fall is not as bad but it's always scary to wake up on the floor and not remember how you got there. After drinking on new years I had my first fall in awhile from standing height and the results weren't pretty. I've had several years to establish control over this disorder but it's a huge blow to my confidence now that this has happened again. I am always extremely careful with drinking because alcohol dehydrates you: know your limits, no shots or hard alcohol, beer or wine only in moderation, and alternate with water. Since the last episode I consistently feel weak and worried about this happening again. I've been working out and eating a healthier diet so maybe I need to increase my sodium intake now. This article was the first time I've heard of any type of medication to help manage syncope, and I may look into trying it. I'm a college senior in her last semester; I'm not a binge drinker but I want to know that I can enjoy all the celebrations without passing out--including the graduation ceremony if it's a hot day out.

To all those with serious symptoms of vasovagal syncope, hang in there. And to all those my age, remember hydration is key when drinking. For every drink, have a cup of water and don't feel pressured to keep up with your friends.

Elizabeth Hulland's picture

Severe stomach pain leads to fainting and...

Well I thought I would start researching this occasional problem I am having. Whenever I either eat something bad, get food poisoning, or if I have too much dairy I get bad stomach cramps and it begins to ache. Last night I awoke to horrible stomach pains so I walked around for second then headed to bathroom thinking, you know. I turned around after reaching bathroom because I have passed out before and you know the feeling when its coming. I barely made it to bed near my husband and passed out. My brain is seizing. I can feel it but feel stuck. I can't get myself out. Meanwhile I can hear my husband, but still stuck almost spinning and feels like nothing else really. My husband tells me once I wake that when I go into these episodes I stop breathing. I feel like I should be concerned. The seizure like feeling is very scary for me. Feels very weird and I just wish I didn't have them happen to me. I have low blood pressure as it is but I drink lots of water, and am a fairly healthy person. Anyone have the same happen to them?
Thanks, best wishes

Anton Fekete's picture

strong stomach pain leading to faint

i've had this several times before i figured out what caused it. after eating a dish made with saurkraut and having some red wine afterwards led to stomach cramps which led to fainting. while i'm unconscious i'm experiencing a terrible feeling like everything spinning in front of me and i can't get out of that only after a while. i think i'm screaming and doing best to end it but it's extremely hard.
Not only stomach cramps led to this kind of faint but couple of times happened after i felt very stressed (3 times in 10 years).
i think this is some kind of vasovagal syncope

Brooke's picture

Personal experience

I am 20 and ever since I was a young girl about age 8 I would faint from various things such as blood or just being scared or sick. As I got older my unconscious state would become longer and I started convulsing and would be out of breath when I gained back consciousness. I decided to get it checked out and I also had the tilt table test done. During the test they monitor different things such as heart rate, blood pressure, etc. They found out that when I pass out my heart completely stops for about a minute or longer and I am not breathing at all. This is why I would convulse while unconscious because my brain was trying to get my heart to pump again. It is VERY rare for this to occur but if anyone who reads this has the same symptoms I would encourage you to get the tilt table test done. The result was the implant of a pacemaker device.

mike's picture

im having the same problem,

im having the same problem, failed the tilt table after they gave me nitro, was out for 13 seconds, doctor wants to put a pacemaker in me, im only 47 and very healthy. is this procedure vary bad?

Serendip Visitor's picture

Sounds Familiar

I was diagnosed when I was about 16 and am now 32. I also had the tilt table and began to have 'non-epileptic' seizures while unconcious. That's the only information I really got about it. My heart beats rapidly and I now have high blood pressure. No one has ever mentioned a pace maker to me. I'm having issues again and am currently wearing the king of hearts heart monitor to hopefully get some answers. It's sooo frustrating to be sick all the time and never know when an episode is going to hit. How long have you had a pace maker and do you feel it helps you have less episodes??

Kayla M's picture

What do people say?

When ever I tell people (mainly informing my teachers or even doctors) that I have VVS they almost always tell me to suck it up and get over it. I faint from pain/thought of/ or seeing someone in pain, but no one seems to understand that I have NO CONTROL over my fainting sypmtoms, all I can do is leave the room and lay down and hope I don't faint and concuss myself again. Do you get the same reactions?

Serendip Visitor's picture

I understand

I have the same exact problem. How are you coping?

Laurie Chaffe's picture

I just wanted to respond to

I just wanted to respond to the comments made regarding Vasovagal Syncope.
My 28 year old son is right now recovering from a head injury which occurred as a result of a fainting spell. He was rushed to hospital and was told that he more than likely has Vasovagal Syncope. I must say that we had never heard of this and it was quite frankly terrifying. He is right now waiting for tests to confirm this.
As soon as we were able to look online we quickly determined that other than possible injury from falling, this is not usually a dangerous condition. However, when my son experienced this fainting spell, he was alone with my nephew who not knowing what was going on began CPR thinking he was having a heart attack because he thought his heart had stopped. We don't know if that was the case but I am sure that further tests will determine the severity of his condition. When he fainted, my son fell and hit his head on a cast iron fireplace. While he was unconcious there was no indication of the gash to his head because of the low blood pressure there was no blood flow. It wasn't until he was in the ambulance coming around when the blood started to flow. My son, at that point was once again coherent but when he was having staples put in his head, he experienced another faint which the ER doctors were able to see and determine what is probably the cause of his fainting.
In hindsight, I remember as a child he would faint during times of extreme excitement. As a mom, I now wish that I had investigated this back then but it only happened a couple of times and we thought that he had just grown out of it. He has just advised me that these episodes have happened recently several months apart. Boy do I feel like a terrible mom. Hence, the reason for my post. I just want to thank everyone for their stories and insight into this condition. By reading about this I feel that I have gained some knowledge which is so important in dealing with whatever the future brings but most of all, my son now knows that he is not alone and his "macho" tough guy image still remains.
Thanks again. All of you have done more than you will ever know just by sharing a little part of yourselves.
Laurie Oct.11 2011

DB's picture

Irritable Bowel Syndrome

My significant other has Irritable Bowel Syndrome that triggers these VVS episodes. I will share whatever knowledge we've learned about it.

First of all, he suffers from severe IBS which brings on intense intestinal cramping. Every time he gets a particularly vicious bout of cramping, the VVS episode begins. He gets nausea, vomiting and dizziness. He describes it as that last, nauseous, retching "radiating ache in the pit of the stomach" moment before a fainting episode, except he doesn't lose consciousness and that feeling lingers.

In the earliest of episodes, we'd go to the emergency room and he'd have the appearance of someone having a heart attack. His heart rate plummets into the 40's and stays there for hours. No amount of anti-nausea medicine works and he will vomit until he's dehydrated. Once he's at that point, the only thing that helps is to basically knock him out with a heavy IV narcotic. Once he goes to sleep, his heartbeat resets itself, and then he's fine. This, of course, is a last resort because most ER staff assume he's a drug seeker. It's terribly embarrassing. Nowadays, he carries a letter from his physician explaining the problem, and we always try to go to the same ER where that physician has privileges. That way, if there's a problem, they can always call him.

We've noticed that his worst episodes occur in the hottest months of the year. I suspect dehydration plays a contributing factor. He also has worsening cramps the morning after eating something sugary, concentrated or spicy. Over the years, we've learned by trial and error.

We eventually found a great internist who referred him to a GI doctor who diagnosed him with severe IBS. He put him on a nightly dose of Donnatal, an anti-spasmodic, and a daily dose of Benefiber. In patients with IBS, Benefiber acts to slow their intestine down by providing more soluble fiber. If he can soak in a warm tub of water when the episodes first start, it helps keep it from getting worse. He also keeps a small supply (ie; 10-12 tabs per year) of oral Dilaudid in the event the episodes get really bad.

If any of you are in the Atlanta area, I'd be happy to exchange emails with you, and perhaps provide the name of the doctors who've been a godsend to my sweetie.


Serendip Visitor's picture


I would love to know if yall have found anything that helps to prevent these episodes as i have had 2 in the past 2 years it is very disturbing. Please e-mail me and let me know if you have any info

Rebecca drury's picture

these black out episodes

I have only just found this page but I am so relieved that other people experience this and I am not on my own. I have been suffering with these episodes since I was 13 so ten years now. I had multiple reasons given to me as to why it happens eg periods, not eating, not enough salt in my diet, stress and anxiety. when I was 21 they put a pacemaker in after having numerous neurological and cardiological tests, the final test being a tilt table test and my heart stopped for 2 minutes. After that I was diagnosed with vasovagal syncope and they put a PACEMAKER in me. I was never offered these beta-blockers etc or any other form of tablet. With me being young I didnt even know they werre an option. I had another blackout at work last week and went to the hospital this week about it and I was told it's in my head! I am distraught that I have been left to continue with this on my own with no other help offered. it distrupts my work, general living, i cant drive because of it and had to quit a well paid job working with children because of it as my episodes give no warnings. I could really use some more information about any tablets people are on to control the blackouts and if they work please. I am fighting a losing battle at the minute. Kind regards

Tiffany's picture

I know how you feel!!

Wow!! I've been a fainted ever since childhood and was finally diagnosed when I was 16 with a tilt table test. I was told for years that it was all in my head. School was so hard as the administrators thought I was faking. I lost friends because of being sick all the time, and even family began to wonder if it was psycho-somatic...especially when doctors couldn't find anything wrong and would tell them that. I'm on a steroid called florinef or is generic name. It helps you retain water/sodium in hopes that you will faint less. I'm now 32 and after a few years with no symptoms they seem to be coming back and I feel like I'm fighting a losing battle as well. It feels horrible, but know that you are not alone and go find a cardiologist and mention your symptoms and this med to them. GOOD LUCK!!!

John's picture

Yes-I have vasovagal syncope

Thanks for all the posts!!! Glad I'm not the only one-but sad we all have to go thru this. My events started at age 6 during a class discussion (Don't remember what it was about-I'm 44 now). Since then I've had 5 or so episodes and hundreds of 'close' calls'. My fears have changed from being embarrassed to being afraid I don't hurt someone as the last event in 2007 occurred while driving (I haven't had an event since). I've gone thru the whole list of emotions others have expressed in these posts (from depression to anger to unbelievable fear) and to be honest, the hardest part of this is waiting for the next event to occur-it has definitely cramped my lifestyle. In some respects-I say 'shame on me' for not allowing me to be me-meaning other than giving those who have never witnessed this first hand a heck of a scare-in ever case life went on-even for my passenger who took the wheel during my last event. Other times, I go with whoa is me... My advice-confront it-go see a cardiologist, get tested, take your meds and most importantly-give yourself a break-no one is perfect and everyone who acts like they don't have a care in the world-well the emperor thought he was wearing regale threads as well.