Symptoms and Signs of Fainting

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Medically Reviewed on 10/29/2021

Doctor's Notes on Fainting

Fainting, or “passing out,” is medically known as syncope. It is the result of becoming unconscious, and this is always abnormal and may be a sign of a life-threatening condition. Fainting can have a number of causes, including decreased blood flow to the brain due to heart failure or low blood pressureanemiadehydration, vasovagal syncope, and abnormalities of the heart or heart valves.

Signs and symptoms associated with the period immediately before fainting include:

Other symptoms and signs that may occur are related to the specific cause of fainting and may include:

What Is the Treatment for Fainting?

Treatment for fainting is dependent upon the condition that caused the fainting.

  • Fainting due to vasovagal syncope may not require medical treatment. In cases of fainting due to heart failure, heart attack, or shock, immediate treatment is necessary and will be directed at the underlying condition.
  • Fainting due to dehydration must be managed with re-hydration and fluid and electrolyte administration.

First aid for fainting includes:

  • laying the individual on their back,
  • elevating the legs,
  • loosening clothing, and
  • trying to revive the person by shaking or yelling.

If the individual has difficulty breathing, chest pain, or is unresponsive, call emergency medical services.

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Kasper, D.L., et al., eds. Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine, 19th Ed. United States: McGraw-Hill Education, 2015.