Have you ever seen someone suddenly lose consciousness and collapse- then and there? Then, you have witnessed an episode of syncope and collapse. This is a medical term used to describe sudden, temporary loss of consciousness. Let us go into the details of this medical condition in the following paragraphs.
What is Syncope and Collapse?
A brief loss of consciousness or blacking out or fainting spell, followed by full wakefulness is called syncope. This loss of consciousness leads to loss of muscle tone. When this happens the person tends to slump over or fall down. There is an area of the brain called the reticular activating system in the brain stem. When this area is switched on, it keeps you awake. When there is decrease in blood supply or oxygen deprivation, a person loses consciousness. Thus, leading to syncope and collapse.
Do not confuse it with fainting spells and loss of consciousness due to head injury. Fainting spells occur due to lack of oxygen to brain, whereas loss of consciousness due to brain injury is called concussion. When a person can remember experiencing, dizziness, blurred vision, muscle weakness, temporary loss of hearing, nausea, abdominal discomfort, sweating, palpitations and even hitting ones head after falling down, it is called presyncope episode. When the person remembers just feeling dizzy or loss of vision and not the collapse, then it is considered a syncoptic episode.
Syncope is caused by lack of oxygen or decrease in blood supply to the brain. This happens due to cerebral hypoxia or hypotension. The brain tries to increase blood flow by pulling away blood from other parts of the body towards itself. This causes the skin to lose color and turn pale. Before one collapses, one experiences increased heart rate, perspiration, nausea, chest pain, blurred vision and dizziness. In some cases, one may lose control on their bladder and bowels. When one collapses, it causes acute circulatory failure state and sudden low blood pressure. The cerebral causes of syncope may include:
- Central nervous system ischaemia
- Vertebro-basilar arterial disease
- Vasovagal syncope
- Deglutition syncope
Syncope and collapse can also occur due to cardiac aliments. These cardiac health problems that lead to sudden fainting spells include:
- Central ischaemic response
- Obstructive cardiac lesion
- Cardiac arrhythmia
- Structural cardiopulmonary disease
- Sick sinus syndrome
- Aortic dissection
- Subclavian steal syndrome
- Aortic stenosis
Other causes include:
- Emotional distress
- Lack of sleep
- Low blood pressure
- Low blood sugar levels
- Excessive physical exertion
Signs and Symptoms
The most obvious syncope and collapse symptom is fainting and falling down. Other symptoms include intense weakness in the body, pale skin, whitening of the face, vertigo, excessive sweating, hyperventilation, hot flushes and loss of consciousness. A person experiencing syncope is not aware that they have fainted and fallen down. After they awaken from the brief fainting spell, do they realize what happened to them. In few people, when they are unconscious, their body may twitch. This is often confused as a seizure, which is not the case most of the time.
The syncope and collapse treatment includes helping the blood flow into the brain. The person needs to be laid on the ground and keep the legs in a slightly elevated position. You can even lean the legs forward and place the head between the knees for about 10 to 15 minutes. The person should be made to sleep or sit in a cool and peaceful place. The person may complain of blurred vision, sore throat, nausea and body shakes after the brief period of dizziness passes. As soon as one experiences light-headedness, nausea and cold skin, one needs to take certain precautions to avoid fainting. One should immediately clench their fists, tense the arms and squeeze the thighs together or cross their legs. This will help avoid a fainting spell. Once the symptoms of syncope and collapse pass, sleep is very important.
When there is lack of blood or oxygen to the reticular activating system or both hemispheres of the brain, it leads to syncope and collapse. Syncope is a sign of heart disease that needs medical attention. People who are prone to fainting need to take proper medical care as it may lead to brain damage and even death. If you or someone you know has experienced brief loss of consciousness and collapse, speak to a medical expert for more help.