Vasovagal Fainting and Dizziness

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Vasovagal fainting (neurocardiogenic syncope) is believed to be the most common type of syncope. It is estimated that 3 percent of emergency room visits in the United States are for this type of fainting. Vasovagal technically refers to the effect the vagus nerve has on the blood vessels, but in a broader sense it refers to the effects various nerves have on the heart and blood vessels.

The two types of nerves that affect the heart and blood vessels are called sympathetic nerves and parasympathet-ic nerves (like the vagus nerve). If these nerves are too sensitive, they can cause episodes of low blood pressure or slow heart rate or both. This may temporarily starve the brain of blood.

One test used to determine if a vaso-vagal reaction is the cause of fainting is called the tilt-table test. The patient lies flat on the back on a special table and is connected to an electrocardiogram machine. Under close observation by a physician, the table rotates to an upright position that may cause a vasovagal reaction or other neurologically related type of fainting.

Several medications can effectively treat these types of problems. Occasionally these patients may need a heart pacemaker.

Dizziness is different from lighthead-edness in that a person feels uncomfortable, as if the room is spinning, but usually does not feel as if he or she is about to pass out. A good example is the feeling that occurs after getting off a ride such as a roller coaster at an amusement park. Dizzy spells can also be caused by ear disorders or other problems. In many cases, people misinterpret their dizziness as a

cardiac problem, although it is not related to their heart.

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