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Syncope is used to describe a loss of consciousness for a short period of time. It can happen when there is a sudden change in the blood flow to the brain. Syncope is usually called fainting or “passing out.”

There are different types of syncope; they depend on the part of the body affected or the cause of blood flow changes. Syncope can also be a symptom of heart disease or other heart problems. It also may show a higher risk for some neurological conditions like neuropathy.

The symptoms of syncope that usually happen before someone loses consciousness include:

  • Feeling dizzy
  • Feeling lightheaded
  • Feeling like they have to vomit
  • Vision that becomes unclear or blacks out
  • Cold or clammy skin

People who experience syncope may pass out for a minute or two. They will slowly come back to normal. Syncope can happen in healthy people. It affects all ages, but happens most often in seniors.

The first thing to look for is that the person is still breathing after they faint. The individual should lie down for 10 to 15 minutes if they can in a cool, quiet area. If this is not possible, they should sit up with their head between their knees. Sipping on cold water can also help. People tend to recover within a few minutes to a few hours.

Treatment focuses on finding out the causes and trying to avoid passing out. When you start to feel symptoms there are some things you can do to help prevent fainting. For example, try to:

  • Make a fist
  • Cross your legs
  • Squeeze your thighs together
  • Tighten the muscles in your arms

Syncope can be life-threatening if it is not treated the right way.

How can I or a loved one help improve care for people with syncope?

Consider participating in a clinical trial so clinicians and scientists can learn more about the syncope and related conditions. Clinical research uses human volunteers to help researchers learn more about a disorder and perhaps find better ways to safely detect, treat, or prevent disease.

All types of volunteers are needed—those who are healthy or may have an illness or disease—of all different ages, sexes, races, and ethnicities to ensure that study results apply to as many people as possible, and that treatments will be safe and effective for everyone who will use them.

For information about participating in clinical research visit NIH Clinical Research Trials and You. Learn about clinical trials currently looking for people with syncope at

Where can I find more information about syncope?

Information may be available from the following resources:

American Heart Association
Phone: 800-242-8721 or 214-373-6300


Content source: Accessed July 17, 2023.

The information in this document is for general educational purposes only. It is not intended to substitute for personalized professional advice. Although the information was obtained from sources believed to be reliable, MedLink, its representatives, and the providers of the information do not guarantee its accuracy and disclaim responsibility for adverse consequences resulting from its use. For further information, consult a physician and the organization referred to herein.

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