Syncope is the medical term that refers to fainting, which occurs when blood flow to your brain suddenly drops. This is usually temporary, and the immediate causes of syncope are usually not serious; some of these causes include sudden decreases in your blood pressure, heart rate, or the amount of blood present in a particular part of your body. While these factors are not necessarily dangerous on their own, fainting can be a sign of a serious medical condition, and you should see a doctor as soon as possible if it happens to you.

There are several different types of syncope. These include:
  • Vasovagal syncope, which occurs when your body physically overreacts to certain triggers
  • Postural/orthostatic syncope, which occurs in response to sudden changes in posture, such as standing too quickly
  • Cardiac syncope, which occurs due to heart conditions such as low blood pressure or blood clots
  • Neurologic syncope, which occurs due to seizures, strokes, or other neurological conditions

How are causes of syncope diagnosed?

To determine what factors could be causing you to faint, your doctor will perform a physical exam, review your medical history, and ask you about episodes of syncope you’ve experienced, as well as any other symptoms you may have noticed. They may also perform tests to check your heart rate and blood pressure in various different positions. This may be followed up by one or more laboratory tests, such as:
  • Blood testing
  • An electrocardiogram (EKG) to monitor your heart’s electrical activity
  • An echocardiogram to generate detailed images of the structures of your heart
  • Exercise stress tests to monitor how your heart functions under physical stress
  • A tilt table test, which monitors changes in your heart rate and blood pressure as you switch from a standing position to lying down
  • Autonomic reflex testing, which checks for nerve damage and monitors changes in your blood pressure and heart rate in response to various stimuli

How is syncope treated?

Treatment for syncope focuses on resolving the underlying causes of your episodes and preventing further episodes from occurring. This typically involves an approach that combines one or more of the following elements:
  • Medication
  • Lifestyle adjustments, such as dietary changes, more frequent exercise, and avoiding triggers
  • Wearing clothing or accessories that improve circulation, such as compression stockings

When syncope occurs as a result of a condition that causes an abnormal heart rhythm, your doctor may recommend surgery to implant a device, such as a pacemaker or implantable cardioverter defibrillator, to help regulate your heart rate.

Fainting can be alarming, no matter the cause, and it’s essential to speak to a doctor as soon as possible if it happens to you. The Queens, NYC syncope specialists at Jamaica Hospital Medical Center’s Division of Neurology can provide advanced, comprehensive diagnostic care to identify factors that could be causing you to faint. From there, they’ll work with you to create a personalized treatment approach that reduces episodes of fainting and addresses related medical problems. To schedule an appointment, please email