Posts

Medical News Today: 20 causes of numbness in the hands

A number of conditions can cause the hands to feel numb. When a person has a sensation of numbness in the hands, weakness and painful tingling sensations may also occur.

This article will explore some of the possible causes for numbness in a person's hands, the accompanying symptoms, and some treatment options.

Cardiovascular

The following cardiovascular conditions may cause numbness in the hands.

1. Heart attack

a person holding one their hands as they are experiencing numbness there Share on Pinterest
A heart attack may cause tingling and numbness in one hand.

If a person is experiencing a suspected heart attack, they or someone near them should seek emergency medical help.

Severe blockages in the heart's main blood supply can cause chest pain as well as tingling and numbness down one arm or the other.

Symptoms

Other symptoms may include:

  • nausea
  • sweating
  • shortness of breath
  • dizziness
  • tingling and numbness down either side of the body
  • shoulder pain
  • unexplained fatigue

Treatment

Treatment includes admission to a cardiac catheterization laboratory in a hospital, where a specialist can diagnose and possibly reopen the blocked cardiac artery.

Learn more about heart attack here.

2. Stroke

An interruption in the blood flow to the brain — potentially from a traveling blood clot or a ruptured artery causing a brain bleed — can lead to stroke.

Symptoms

Symptoms may include:

  • sudden weakness or numbness on one side of the body
  • confusion
  • lower facial drooping on one side of the face
  • difficulty maintaining balance
  • visual problems
  • speech problems

Treatment

If a person is experiencing a suspected stroke, they or someone near them should seek emergency medical attention, which may involve the administration of clot-busting medications.

Learn more about stroke here.

Vascular

The following vascular conditions may cause numbness in the hands.

3. Vasculitis

Vasculitis can occur when the immune system attacks itself and causes inflammation of the blood vessels.

Symptoms

Symptoms vary based on the area of the body the vasculitis affects.

Some symptoms may include:

  • fatigue
  • fever
  • weight loss
  • night sweats
  • rash
  • nerve problems, such as numbness or weakness

Treatment

Treatment depends on the underlying cause of the vasculitis and may include steroids or other immunosuppressant medications.

Learn more about vasculitis here.

4. Raynaud's disease

Raynaud's disease causes the arteries that direct blood to the fingers and toes to temporarily narrow.

Symptoms

Symptoms may include a numb, tingling, or burning feeling in fingers, as well as the fingers and toes turning blue or pale white.

Treatment

Learning to avoid the common triggers of the condition — such as cold temperatures, stress, and certain medications — can help ease the symptoms.

Learn more about Raynaud's disease here.

Neurological

The following neurological conditions may cause numbness in the hands.

5. Brachial plexus injury

The brachial plexus is a complex network of nerves that extend from the spine to each shoulder. This network transmits signals between the spine and the shoulders, arms, and hands.

Shoulder injuries, tumors, and other causes of inflammation can all lead to damage in the brachial plexus, which can result in numbness in a person's hand.

Infants may experience brachial plexus injuries during birth due to excessive shoulder stretching in the birth canal.

Symptoms

Symptoms may include:

  • severe shoulder or arm pain
  • numbness in the hands
  • weakness and difficulty moving the arms

Treatment

Treatment depends on the underlying cause.

Some people may heal without further intervention, while others may require surgery or physical therapy.

Infants injured during birth may recover by the time they reach 3–4 months of age.

Learn about brachial neuritis here.

6. Fibromyalgia

This condition affects nerve function and causes chronic pain, which may result in tingling and numbness that may closely resemble that of carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS).

Symptoms

Other symptoms may include:

  • pain in several areas of the body, which may include the hands
  • fatigue
  • headaches
  • difficulty sleeping
  • depression
  • stomach problems

Treatment

The treatment options for fibromyalgia include exercise, as this can help ease pain and improve sleep. A doctor may also prescribe antidepressant or anticonvulsant therapy.

Cognitive behavioral therapy may be beneficial for those whose condition does not respond sufficiently to medication.

Learn more about fibromyalgia here.

7. Spinal cord injury

Trauma due to a spinal cord injury can lead to tingling and numbness in the hands and feet. Falls, motor vehicle accidents, blows to the head, gunshot wounds, and several other events can all cause spinal cord injuries.

Symptoms

Symptoms may vary based on the exact area of the body the injury affects. They might include:

  • adversely affected movement
  • loss of sensation
  • loss of large bowel and urinary bladder control
  • pain

Treatment

Treatments include supportive therapy and surgical repair when possible.

Some experimental treatments may give those with a spinal cord injury a better chance of regaining their functioning.

Learn more about spinal cord injuries here.

8. Cubital tunnel syndrome

This condition results from excessive stretching or pressure on the ulnar nerve.

Symptoms

Symptoms, specifically in the ring and pinky fingers, may include:

  • numbness
  • weakness
  • tingling

Treatment

Treatment may include wearing a splint while sleeping, to keep the elbow straight from bending. Physical therapy, NSAIDs, and surgery to remove or repair any areas of excessive pressure on the elbow may also be potential treatment options.

Learn more about cubital tunnel syndrome here.

Musculoskeletal

The following musculoskeletal conditions may cause numbness in the hands.

9. Cervical spondylosis

Cervical spondylosis is also known as osteoarthritis of the neck. This condition occurs when degeneration affects the disks or joints in the neck.

This degeneration can also give rise to cervical spondylotic myelopathy, which occurs when a person has cervical spondylosis symptoms due to compression of the spinal cord or surrounding blood vessels.

Symptoms

Symptoms may include:

  • muscle weakness in the extremities
  • pain in the hands
  • increased urinary urgency, frequency, or hesitancy
  • gait disturbance

Treatment

Doctors may prescribe nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), muscle relaxants, antidepressants, or corticosteroids. Surgery may help those with severe cases.

Learn more about cervical spondylosis here.

10. Carpal tunnel syndrome

CTS affects around 1% of people who are of working age. CTS occurs when one of the nerves that runs through the carpal tunnel in the wrist becomes compressed.

Symptoms

Symptoms in the hand may include:

  • pain
  • tingling
  • weakness
  • affected grip strength

Treatment

Wearing a splint and resting the wrist and hand may help. Sometimes, a doctor may also recommend surgery to reduce pressure over the carpal tunnel.

Learn more about CTS here.

11. Ganglion cyst

Ganglion cysts are soft lumps that develop in joints around the body. They may cause pain or numbness in the hand.

According to an article in The Journal of the Canadian Chiropractic Association, up to 60–70% of ganglion cysts occur in the wrist.

Symptoms

Symptoms may include a round or oval shaped lump on the wrist or other parts of the body, as well as pain in and around the area.

Treatment

Resting the affected area can help. However, wearing a splint or brace for too long may weaken the muscles in the hand.

Although surgery and aspiration therapy may be an option for some, these methods may not be completely effective.

According to a review in the Journal of Hand Surgery, researchers predict the chance of a cyst returning after surgery as 21%. This rises to 59% for recurrence after aspiration.

Learn more about ganglion cysts here.

12. Lateral epicondylitis

Lateral epicondylitis, or tennis elbow, occurs when the tendons that join the lateral forearm muscles and bone near the elbow become inflamed.

Symptoms

Symptoms may include:

  • pain or burning sensations, often on the outside of the elbow
  • weak grip strength
  • tingling and numbness in the hand

Treatment

Most episodes of lateral epicondylitis will resolve with rest, physical therapy, and NSAIDs. However, in severe instances, a doctor may recommend surgical intervention.

Learn more about lateral epicondylitis here.

Autoimmune

The following autoimmune conditions may cause numbness in the hands.

13. Guillain-Barré syndrome

This condition can cause the body's immune system to attack nerves outside of the brain and spinal cord. This can result in muscle weakness.

Symptoms

Other symptoms may include:

  • pins and needles in the hands and feet
  • unsteadiness
  • visual problems
  • difficulty swallowing
  • severe pain that worsens at night
  • muscle paralysis

Treatment

Although there is currently no cure for Guillain-Barré syndrome, a doctor might treat the condition using immunoglobulin therapy or a plasma exchange, otherwise known as plasmapheresis.

These treatments may reduce the body's immune system response.

Learn more about Guillain-Barré syndrome here.

14. Multiple sclerosis

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a condition that attacks the central nervous system (CNS). The immune system attacks the protective coating of the nerve sheaths, which can eventually destroy the nerves of the CNS.

Symptoms

Symptoms may include:

  • numbness and weakness in the limbs
  • electric shock-like sensations
  • tremors
  • unsteady gait
  • adversely affected vision
  • cognitive difficulties

Treatment

Treatment includes taking immunosuppressant medications such as corticosteroids and other disease-modifying therapies.

Later, doctors may also recommend plasmapheresis to reduce the immune system response.

Learn more about MS here.

15. Sjogren's syndrome

Sjogren's syndrome is an autoimmune condition that primarily attacks the glands that produce tears and saliva.

Some people may also experience tissue or organ damage in other areas of the body.

Symptoms

Other symptoms may include:

  • dry eyes
  • dry mouth
  • itchy skin
  • a chronic cough
  • numbness and tingling in the hands and feet
  • severe fatigue

Treatment

Treatment depends on the symptoms and which area of the body the condition affects.

For example, a doctor may choose to prescribe eye drops, medications to increase saliva, NSAIDs, or medications to suppress the immune system.

Learn more about Sjogren's syndrome here.

Other conditions

The following conditions may also cause numbness in the hands.

16. Diabetes

Diabetes is a condition of abnormal blood sugar levels due to dysfunction of the body's ability to produce enough insulin or respond correctly to it.

The most well-known types of diabetes include:

  • Type 1: This type of diabetes develops when the body does not produce insulin.
  • Type 2: This type of diabetes occurs when the body does not respond properly to insulin and eventually does not produce enough of it.
  • Gestational diabetes: This form of diabetes occurs during pregnancy. It will typically go away after delivery.

Symptoms

Symptoms may include:

  • a slow, gradual onset of tingling and numbness in the feet and hands
  • extreme sensitivity to touch or temperature changes
  • burning or stabbing pains in the hands and feet

Treatment

Making certain lifestyle changes, such as eating a healthful diet and exercising regularly, can help a person maintain steady blood sugar levels.

People with type 1 diabetes may have to inject themselves with insulin. Type 2 diabetes and gestational diabetes may be controllable through the diet or by starting noninsulin medication therapy.

Learn more about diabetes here.

17. Vitamin B-12 deficiency

A study in the journal RMJ found that 90.4% of 110 people with a vitamin B-12 deficiency reported numbness and loss of sensation as symptoms.

Symptoms

Other symptoms may include:

  • numbness and tingling in the hands, feet, and legs
  • difficulty walking
  • an inflamed and swollen tongue
  • difficulty thinking clearly
  • muscle weakness
  • fatigue

Treatment

A doctor may prescribe supplementation with vitamin B-12 either in pill form or as a shot.

Learn more about vitamin-12 deficiency here.

18. Amyloidosis

Amyloidosis is a medical condition that causes abnormal protein to build up in healthy tissue, which can affect the function of the affected area.

It can affect a person's nervous system, kidneys, liver, heart, and digestive tract.

Symptoms

Symptoms may include:

  • fatigue and weakness
  • ankle and leg swelling
  • shortness of breath
  • diarrhea
  • unintentional weight loss
  • tingling and pain in the hands and feet

Treatment

There is currently no cure for amyloidosis, but treatment might help ease some of the symptoms.

Treatment may depend on the type of amyloidosis a person has. For example, a doctor may recommend chemotherapy medications, immunosuppressant medications, or stem cell transplants.

Learn more about amyloidosis here.

19. Lyme disease

A bite from a tick carrying the Borrelia burgdorferi bacterium can give rise to Lyme disease. This is an infectious condition that affects the nervous system.

Symptoms

The symptoms of Lyme disease can closely resemble those of the flu, such as fever, chills, fatigue, and aching joints.

If a person does not receive treatment, they may experience:

  • joint swelling
  • an irregular heartbeat
  • nerve pain
  • shortness of breath
  • pain or numbness in the hands and feet

Treatment

Treatment depends on the stage the Lyme disease has reached.

Doctors can treat early stage Lyme disease with antibiotic therapy. Later stage Lyme disease may require antibiotics and supportive treatments.

Learn more about Lyme disease here.

20. Medication side effects

Taking certain medications, such as chemotherapy medications, can cause tingling and numbness in the hands.

Treatment

Some people may experience an improvement in symptoms when they stop taking the medications. However, others may experience permanent tingling and numbness.

Learn more about side effects here.

When to see a doctor

Tingling and numbness can result from a number of medical conditions.

If a person suspects that they or someone near them is having a heart attack or a stroke, they should seek immediate medical attention.

Other symptoms for which a person should seek medical attention include:

  • lasting, sudden, or worsening loss of sensation in the hand
  • obvious physical deformity of the hand or arm
  • pain that gets worse instead of better
  • progressive weakness

If a person is concerned about any symptoms related to unusual sensations in their arms or hands, they should see a doctor.

Summary

Numbness in the hands can be the result of a chronic medical condition or acute injury.

A person should talk to their doctor if the numbness appears to be worsening or their symptoms are interfering with their everyday activities.

Original Article

Medical News Today: What is the autonomic nervous system?

The autonomic nervous system is a complex network of cells that controls the body's internal state. It regulates and supports many different internal processes, often outside of a person's conscious awareness.

This article will explain the autonomic nervous system, or ANS, how it works, and the disorders that can affect its functioning.

Anatomy

a man exercising and checking his heart rate which is regulated by the Autonomic nervous systemShare on Pinterest
The ANS helps to regulate many of the body's internal functions, such as heart rate.

The nervous system is a collection of cells that send and receive electrical and chemical signals throughout the body.

The nervous system consists of two main parts:

  • The central nervous system: This consists of the brain and spinal cord.
  • The peripheral nervous system: This contains all the neurons outside of the central nervous system.

The ANS is part of the peripheral nervous system. It is a collection of neurons that influence the activity of many different organs, including the stomach, heart, and lungs.

Within the ANS, there are two subsystems that have mostly opposing effects:

  • The sympathetic nervous system (SNS): Neurons within the SNS generally prepare the body to react to something in its environment. For example, the SNS may increase heart rate to prepare a person to escape from danger.
  • The parasympathetic nervous system (PNS): Parasympathetic neurons mostly regulate bodily functions when a person is at rest.

Function

The nervous system regulates the internal environment of the body. It is essential for maintaining homeostasis.

Homeostasis refers to the relatively stable and balanced conditions inside the body that are necessary to support life. Some of those that homeostasis regulates include:

The ANS receives information from the environment and other parts of the body and regulates the activity of the organs, accordingly.

The ANS is also involved in the following bodily functions:

  • producing bodily fluids, such as sweat
  • urination
  • sexual responses

One critical function of the ANS is to prepare the body for action through the "fight or flight" response.

If the body perceives a threat in the environment, the sympathetic neurons of the ANS react by:

  • increasing heart rate
  • widening the airways to make breathing easier
  • releasing stored energy
  • increasing strength in the muscles
  • slowing digestion and other bodily processes that are less important for taking action

These changes prepare the body to respond appropriately to a threat in the environment.

Factors that affect how it works

The fight or flight response of the ANS evolved to protect the body from dangers around it. However, many stressful aspects of daily life can also trigger this response.

Examples include:

  • work-related stress
  • financial concerns
  • relationship problems

Chronic stress can cause the ANS to trigger the fight or flight response over long periods. This continuation will eventually harm the body.

Some drugs can also affect the way the ANS functions. Examples include:

Autonomic disorders and their causes

Autonomic disorders affect the functioning of the ANS. They can sometimes occur as a result of the following:

  • aging
  • damage to neurons within the ANS
  • damage to specific parts of the brain

Certain medical conditions can also affect the ANS. Some common causes of autonomic disorders include:

Less common causes of autonomic disorders include:

  • multiple system atrophy (MSA)
  • spinal cord disorders
  • Lambert-Eaton syndrome
  • botulism
  • viral infections
  • damage to nerves in the neck

Autonomic disorder symptoms

Autonomic disorders can cause a wide range of symptoms, including:

  • dizziness and lightheadedness due to orthostatic hypotension (OH), which is a significant drop in blood pressure when standing up after sitting
  • reduced or absent sweating, leading to intolerance of heat
  • dry eyes and mouth
  • digestive issues
  • nausea
  • vomiting
  • constipation
  • difficulty urinating
  • erectile dysfunction
  • pupils being less reactive to light

When to see a doctor

Autonomic disorders can be serious. People who experience symptoms of an autonomic disorder should see a doctor for a full diagnosis.

Talking to a doctor is particularly important for people with diabetes or other conditions that can increase the likelihood of autonomic disorders.

Testing

To diagnose the cause of ANS symptoms, a doctor will first assess a person's medical history for risk factors.

A doctor may also request one or more of the following:

  • Tests to detect orthostatic hypotension: A doctor may measure OH using a tilt-table test. In this test, a person lies on a bed that tilts their body at different angles while a machine records their heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Electrocardiogram: This test measures electrical activity within the heart.
  • Sweat test: This test assesses whether the sweat glands are functioning correctly. A doctor uses electrodes to stimulate the sweat glands and measures the volume of sweat they produce in response to the stimulus.
  • Pupillary light reflex test: This test measures how sensitive the pupils are to changes in light.

Summary

The ANS regulates the internal organs to maintain homeostasis or to prepare the body for action. The sympathetic branch of the ANS is responsible for stimulating the fight or flight response. The parasympathetic branch has the opposite effect and helps regulate the body at rest.

Autonomic disorders have many different causes. They can occur as a natural consequence of aging or as a result of damage to parts of the brain or ANS. They may also occur as a result of an underlying disorder, such as diabetes or Parkinson's disease.

A person should see a doctor if they experience symptoms of a possible autonomic disorder. A doctor will work to diagnose the cause of the symptoms and prescribe appropriate treatments.

Original Article

Medical News Today: What to know about brain atrophy

Brain atrophy refers to a loss of brain cells or a loss in the number of connections between brain cells. People who experience brain atrophy typically develop poorer cognitive functioning as a result of this type of brain damage.

There are two main types of brain atrophy: focal atrophy, which occurs in specific brain regions, and generalized atrophy, which occurs across the brain.

Brain atrophy can occur as a result of the natural aging process. Other causes include injury, infections, and certain underlying medical conditions.

This article describes the symptoms and causes of brain atrophy. It also outlines the treatment options available in each case, as well as the outlook.

Symptoms

an old man looking confused because he is experiencing Brain atrophyShare on Pinterest
The natural aging process is a possible cause of brain atrophy.

Brain atrophy can affect one or multiple regions of the brain.

The symptoms will vary depending on the location of the atrophy and its severity.

According to the National Institute of Neurological Conditions and Stroke, brain atrophy can cause the following symptoms and conditions:

Seizures

A seizure is a sudden, abnormal spike of electrical activity in the brain. There are two main types of seizure. One is the partial seizure, which affects just one part of the brain. The other is the generalized seizure, which affects both sides of the brain.

The symptoms of a seizure depend on which part of the brain it affects. Some people may not experience any noticeable symptoms, whereas others may experience one or more of the following:

  • behavioral changes
  • jerking eye movements
  • a bitter or metallic taste in the mouth
  • drooling or frothing at the mouth
  • teeth clenching
  • grunting and snorting
  • muscle spasms
  • convulsions
  • loss of consciousness

Aphasia

The term aphasia refers to a group of symptoms that affect a person's ability to communicate. Some types of aphasia can affect a person's ability to produce or understand speech. Others can affect a person's ability to read or write.

According to the National Aphasia Association, there are eight different types of aphasia. The type of aphasia a person experiences depends on the part or parts of the brain that sustain damage.

Some cases of aphasia are relatively mild, whereas others may severely impair a person's ability to communicate.

Dementia

Dementia is the term for a group of symptoms associated with a continuing decline in brain function. These symptoms may include:

  • memory loss
  • slowed thinking
  • language problems
  • problems with movement and coordination
  • poor judgment
  • mood disturbances
  • loss of empathy
  • hallucinations
  • difficulty carrying out daily activities

There are several different types of dementia. Alzheimer's disease is the most common.

A person's risk of dementia increases with age, with most cases affecting people aged 65 years and older. However, experts do not consider it to be a natural part of the aging process.

Causes

Brain atrophy can occur as a result of injury, either from a traumatic brain injury (TBI) or a stroke. It may also occur as a result of one of the following:

In some cases, brain atrophy may occur as a result of a chronic disorder or condition, such as:

  • cerebral palsy
  • multiple sclerosis (MS)
  • Huntington's disease
  • frontotemporal dementia
  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Pick's disease
  • mitochondrial encephalomyopathies, which are a group of disorders that affect the nervous system
  • leukodystrophies, which are a group of rare genetic conditions affecting the nervous system

Diagnosis

When diagnosing brain atrophy, a doctor may begin by taking a full medical history and asking about a person's symptoms. This may include asking questions about when the symptoms began and if there was an event that triggered them.

The doctor may also carry out language or memory tests, or other specific tests of brain function.

If they suspect that a person has brain atrophy, they will need to locate the brain damage and assess its severity. This will require an MRI or CT scan.

Treatment

The treatment options for brain atrophy will vary depending on its location, severity, and cause. The following sections list some treatment options by cause.

Injuries

Brain atrophy can occur as a long-term consequence of an injury. In these cases, treatment tends to focus on helping the surrounding brain issue heal over time.

Brain injuries typically require a rehabilitation period that may involve one or more of the following:

Infections

Medications will be necessary to treat infections that result in brain inflammation or atrophy.

Doctors prescribe antibiotics to treat bacterial infections and antiviral medications to treat viral infections. These medications will help fight the infection and alleviate the symptoms.

Disorders and conditions

Several disorders and conditions can lead to brain atrophy. Many of these conditions currently have no cure, so treatment generally focuses on managing the symptoms.

Treatment may involve a combination of medications and therapies such as occupational or speech therapy. These therapies may be necessary to help a person regain brain function or learn strategies to help them cope.

Some conditions, such as MS, cause symptoms to occur in cycles. A person's doctor or healthcare team will adapt their treatment plan accordingly if this is the case.

Is it possible to reverse brain atrophy?

Until recently, many scientists considered the brain to be a relatively unchanging organ. However, research is increasingly showing how the brain adapts its structure and functioning throughout life.

It is currently unclear whether or not it is possible to reverse brain atrophy. However, the brain may alter how it works to compensate for damage. In some cases, this may be enough to restore functioning over time.

Exercise for brain atrophy

A 2011 review suggests that regular exercise could slow or even reverse brain atrophy related to aging or dementia.

However, one 2018 study found that high intensity exercise and strength training did not slow cognitive impairment in people with mild-to-moderate dementia. Additional research is therefore necessary to determine what effect, if any, exercise has on preventing or reversing brain atrophy due to dementia.

Drugs to reverse brain atrophy

Scientists are currently working to develop drugs that can reverse brain atrophy. For example, one 2019 study investigated whether or not the dementia drug donepezil could reverse alcohol-induced brain atrophy in rats.

The researchers found that the rats they treated with donepezil experienced a reduction in brain inflammation and showed an increased number of new brain cells. However, it was not clear if donepezil would have similar effects on brain atrophy resulting from causes other than alcohol-induced damage.

It is also not clear whether or not the same effects would occur in humans. Clinical trials involving human participants are necessary.

Outlook

The outlook for brain atrophy varies depending on the location and extent of the damage, as well as its underlying cause. For people with mild cases, there may be few long-term consequences.

When brain atrophy occurs due to a disease or condition, however, symptoms may worsen over time. Long-term treatments and therapies can help slow this process and help a person manage any resulting cognitive impairments.

For injuries such as TBI and stroke, receiving immediate and effective care can significantly improve the outlook.

Summary

Brain atrophy refers to a loss of neurons within the brain or a loss in the number of connections between the neurons. This loss may be the result of an injury, infection, or underlying health condition.

Mild cases of brain atrophy may have little effect on daily functioning. However, brain atrophy can sometimes lead to symptoms such as seizures, aphasia, and dementia. Severe damage can be life threatening.

A person should see a doctor if they experience any symptoms of brain atrophy. The doctor will work to diagnose the cause of the atrophy and recommend appropriate treatments.

Original Article

Medical News Today: What to know about vasovagal syncope

The term vasovagal syncope describes fainting that occurs in response to a sudden drop in heart rate or blood pressure. The resulting lack of blood and oxygen to the brain is what causes a person to pass out.

Doctors sometimes refer to vasovagal syncope (VVS) as neurocardiogenic syncope or reflex syncope. This condition typically occurs when the body overreacts to a stimulus that induces a state of fear or emotional distress.

Other causes may include severe pain, exhaustion, or sudden changes in body posture. Some people have a predisposition to these episodes due to a health condition that affects blood pressure or the heart.

Although a person may sometimes sustain injuries as a result of passing out, VVS is generally harmless. However, a medical diagnosis is necessary to rule out more serious medical conditions.

In this article, we outline some common symptoms and causes of vasovagal syncope. We also cover the treatment options available and provide tips on how to prevent fainting episodes.

Symptoms

a man looking faint as he is experiencing Vasovagal syncopeShare on Pinterest
Lightheadedness, dizziness, and weakness can be signs that a person will faint.

Some people who experience VVS do not notice any warning signs before fainting. Others may have symptoms such as:

People who experience these symptoms before fainting should lie down somewhere safe. Lying down will help the body maintain adequate blood flow to the brain, which may prevent fainting. It will also minimize the risk of a fall or injury in the event of fainting.

A person who has fainted may feel tired, lightheaded, or nauseated when they come round.

Causes

VVS occurs when the nerves that regulate heart rate and blood vessel constriction temporarily lose some of their normal regulation.

Malfunctions generally occur when a stimulus, such as fear, or an abrupt change in body posture causes the blood vessels to widen suddenly. This widening leads to a sudden drop in blood pressure and a resulting lack of blood and oxygen to the brain. This lack of oxygen is what causes fainting.

People may experience VVS for different reasons. Some common triggers include:

  • fear
  • the sight of blood or gore
  • getting blood drawn
  • standing for a long time
  • sudden changes in posture
  • straining, such as during bowel movementssevere pain
  • intense exercise
  • exposure to heat

What to do after fainting

A person who has experienced VVS may feel tired, weak, and nauseated when they come round. It is important that they rest before getting up and continuing with their day.

In some cases, people may need to seek emergency medical attention after a fainting episode. Generally, medical care is only necessary for people who experience the following scenarios and symptoms:

  • fainting while pregnant
  • falling from a significant height
  • sustaining a head injury or other severe injury
  • loss of consciousness
  • chest pain or difficulty breathing
  • confusion, slurred speech, or issues with vision or hearing
  • involuntary movements of the body

When to see a doctor

People who have previously experienced VVS should talk to their doctor if they experience any new triggers or symptoms.

People should also see a doctor if they experience fainting for the first time. However, it is not always possible to diagnose VVS from a single episode of fainting.

Some types of syncope can occur as a result of an underlying medical condition that requires treatment. Examples of such conditions include:

Diagnosis

Typically, doctors will begin a diagnosis of VVS with a review of the person's medical history and any other symptoms. They will also conduct a physical examination. As part of this examination, the doctor will take blood pressure readings while the person is standing, sitting, and lying down.

A doctor may also attempt to rule out alternative causes of fainting using one or more tests. Examples of such tests include:

  • Electrocardiogram (EKG), which measures electrical activity in the heart.
  • Echocardiogram, which assesses heart motion and blood flow through the heart.
  • Exercise stress test to evaluate heart function in response to exercise.
  • Tilt-table test, in which the doctor will secure a person to a padded table that tilts at different angles. Various monitors detect and record heart activity, blood pressure, and oxygen levels while the table positions the person at different angles.

Treatment

VVS does not typically require treatment. However, a person may sometimes be slow to regain consciousness after an episode of fainting. A bystander can intervene by laying the person on their back and raising their legs in the air. Doing this may help restore blood flow to the brain, thereby helping the person regain consciousness.

According to a 2016 review, there are limited treatment options for people with VVS. Doctors advise people with this condition to avoid known fainting triggers and take precautions to prevent injury when signs of imminent fainting begin.

Medications are not usually necessary for VVS. However, in some circumstances, the following medications may be effective in reducing the frequency of VVS episodes:

  • Alpha-1 adrenergic agonists: These drugs help raise blood pressure.
  • Fludrocortisone: A type of corticosteroid that can help maintain blood pressure by increasing sodium and fluid levels in the body.
  • Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs): Antidepressant medications that may help moderate the nervous system response.

However, further studies are necessary to determine the effectiveness of these and other medical treatments for VVS.

Prevention tips

VVS is not always completely preventable. However, a person may be able to reduce the number of fainting episodes that they experience.

A person's doctor may provide the following recommendations for preventing VVS and the associated complications:

  • identifying and avoiding situations that trigger fainting episodes
  • engaging in moderate exercise
  • drinking plenty of fluids to maintain blood volume
  • consuming a diet that is higher in salt
  • wearing compression stockings
  • discontinuing medications that lower blood pressure
  • immediately sitting or lying down when feeling faint

As with prescription medications, these preventive lifestyle approaches may work for some people and not others. Various factors, such as the person's blood pressure and heart function, may determine the effectiveness of these approaches.

Summary

Vasovagal syncope refers to fainting that occurs in response to a sudden drop in heart rate or blood pressure.

Vasovagal syncope is usually not dangerous. However, people should seek medical attention if they faint when pregnant, experience additional symptoms, or fall and injure themselves when fainting. People should also see a doctor if they are unsure of the cause of fainting.

There are no standard treatments for vasovagal syncope. Instead, treatment generally involves making certain dietary and lifestyle changes, as well as avoiding potential triggers of fainting.

Original Article