Living With Vasovagal Syncope
Syncope is defined as the loss or near loss of consciousness combined with an impaired awareness of one’s surroundings. This can be caused by any number of things from vagal issues to neurological conditions
In the fall of 2006 I began to suffer from severe dizzy spells. At first I blew them off as I figured that I was just fatigued. Then my co-workers started to find me sitting on the floor staring off into space or at times passed out in my work area. They quickly began to refer to me as the “fainting goat”. After a few months of battling with this affliction my family doctor sent me to a local cardiologist who diagnosed me with vasovagal syncope. Now with the proper treatment and some life changes I can manage my condition, but there are many people who suffer from forms of syncope that don’t even know that they have.
The symptoms of syncope are lightheadedness, sweating, dizziness, nausea, blurred vision, muffled hearing, and a tingling sensation in the body. Now you may not experience all of these. For example when I’m about to have a syncopal episode I start to sweat, I feel weak, I get a severe ringing in my ears, dizziness ensues and I’m done for. It’s different for everybody.
If you’ve had these symptoms it’s time to get yourself checked out. A good physician will put you through a battery of tests including blood work, a 24-72 hour holtor monitor, and a tilt table test. Your physician will want to rule out other conditions and should be very thorough. If they are not, don’t hesitate to get a second opinion.
In my case the syncope got worse with treatment so I finally took my medical file to an osteopath and had her review it. That’s when I found out that I’d been tested for everything, but syncope. Upon meeting with a electrophysiologist I had a tilt table test and was officially diagnosed. This is also when I found out that I had been overdosed with multiple medications which compounded my condition. My new Dr. pulled me off all of the medications I’d been taking, let my body clean itself for six months, and started fresh. This is when life got a lot better! I was placed on the correct medication and taught to monitor my symptoms. What a difference! I could function without the worry of fainting.
Ok enough about me. If you do have the symptoms above the first step in treatment is diagnosed. Go to your physician and let him/her know what your symptoms are. Once you’ve been diagnosed your cardiologist will start you on a treatment program. This is all well and good, but how do you cope with the condition. For many people they have to change their lifestyle.
The first step in the process is knowing your triggers. I suggest that you keep a daily log. Write down what you were doing when you had your syncopal episode. If you were hot and standing, write it down. If you were carrying a lot of weight write that down. Tracking when and how your syncope presents itself is a big first step in controlling it. For myself syncope rears its ugly head when I’m stressed, exhausted, stand for prolonged periods of time, lift to much weight, and when I consume hot food sitting at the dinner table. That last one is strange I know, but it happens every time. Your triggers will be different. If you can recognize what they are it will go a long way toward controlling your syncope.
Identify how you feel just before an syncopal episode occurs. For example I start to feel fatigued and my ears begin to ring. I know that’s when my blood pressure is starting to drop and I need to take a break from what I’m doing. Sitting down for a few minutes is much better than passing out for a few minutes. If you can recognize when syncope is about to strike you can usually prevent it, but you have to experiment and find out what works for you.
“If it hurts you probably shouldn’t do it” is what my old doc used to tell me. The same thing goes for syncope. If a certain activity exasperates your syncope, don’t do it. When I was officially diagnosed, I was told that I had to develop a “job free environment”. I couldn’t do that as I have a family to feed. My job required that I do the very things that caused my syncope so I had to change careers. I started a few home based businesses that would allow me to take a break when necessary. Not everyone can do this so you may have to tell your employer about your condition and see what adjustments you can make to compensate for your syncope.
Syncope can be a very disturbing condition for both the individual that has it and the people around them. Identifying your condition and establishing a treatment plan along with lifestyle changes is the best way to control this condition. Doing so will allow you to live a very full life.
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