What is a vasovagal attack?

A vasovagal attack is a disorder that causes a rapid drop in heart rate and blood pressure, resulting in decreased blood flow to the brain and fainting. The disorder is also referred to as neurocardiogenic syncope. A vasovagal attack is the most common cause of fainting. A vasovagal attack may occur in a person of any age, but the attacks are more common in children, young adults, and the elderly.

A vasovagal attack itself is not serious; however, injury is possible during a fainting episode. Prolonged standing is associated with vasovagal attacks because blood may pool in the legs, thus reducing blood flow to the brain. Heat exposure can also lead to a vasovagal attack. As blood flows to the body’s periphery to cool the body, this may result in decreased blood flow to the brain. Heightened emotions, such as panic or fright, including seeing blood, having blood drawn, or being fearful of your life, may cause a vasovagal attack. Straining to have a bowel movement can result in a vasovagal attack from stimulation of the vagus nerve, which lowers the heart rate in some people. Another cause of vasovagal attacks is the rapid pooling of blood to the leg muscles after running or other strenuous exercise.

The signs and symptoms of vasovagal attacks have a rapid onset and occur just once or periodically. The attacks vary among individuals. Some people with vasovagal attacks have mild symptoms, such as light-headedness, while others may have frequent fainting episodes. Lying down and elevating the feet if symptoms begin, therapy to treat feelings of fear or anxiety, and taking all medications as prescribed can all help prevent vasovagal attack.

A vasovagal attack by itself is not serious. However, fainting may be caused by a serious or life-threatening condition. Seek immediate medical care (call 911) if fainting is accompanied by serious symptoms, such as sweating, severe difficulty breathing, or chest pain or pressure, which may be combined with pale or blue lips and a fast heart rate. Also seek immediate care for injuries sustained during a fainting episode.

Seek prompt medical care if you are being treated for vasovagal attacks but mild symptoms recur or are persistent.

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of a vasovagal attack?

A vasovagal attack causes a rapid drop in blood pressure and heart rate, which may result in a number of symptoms. The symptoms can vary in intensity among individuals.... Read more about vasovagal attacksymptoms

CAUSES

What causes a vasovagal attack?

A vasovagal attack is caused by a rapid drop in blood pressure and heart rate, resulting in a decrease in blood flow to the brain. Standing for a prolonged period of time, situations that induce panic or fear, and strenuous exercise can also cause a vasovagal attack.... Read more about vasovagal attackcauses

TREATMENTS

How are vasovagal attacks treated?

Treatment for vasovagal attacks begins with seeking medical care from your health care provider. To determine if you have vasovagal attacks, your health care provider will ask you questions and may ask you to undergo diagnostic tests.... Read more about vasovagal attacktreatments

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Heart, Blood and Circulation