You may have experienced blackouts at some point in your life. It is the brief loss of consciousness that occurs suddenly. You may not remember or become aware of your surroundings when you experience the condition. It can occur due to a decreased flow of blood to your brain. The condition can either occur due to simple issues or you can suffer from some serious health issues leading to the loss of consciousness. While it is also known as fainting, swooning, or passing put, you can make a rapid recovery. But, it is better to check your health condition by consulting a medical professional. It is because fainting can point towards serious complications with your heart or circulatory system. Read ahead to know more about the condition and take better steps to manage it.
In general terms, you can describe blackouts as a short period of unconsciousness. You become unaware of the things around you. You may find it difficult to recall hat exactly happened or what you did before fainting. The reasons triggering the condition can range from simple to serious. You can classify the condition into different types based on how much you remember about the episode. The different types are:
It is the most common type you suffer. When you recover from the fainting spell, you can remember bits and pieces of information. You cannot remember all the events leading to the fainting. But, you tend to remember when something triggers your memory.
En Bloc Blackouts
This type is more serious and needs medical attention as early as possible. Your memory is disabled. So, you fail to remember a large chunk of your time. You may feel like it never happened. Unfortunately, you fail to recall the periods.
How Serious Are Blackouts?
When you faint, you tend to panic as you never know what causes the condition. But, not all conditions are serious. You can experience any of the following, which varies in its severity.
It is the harmless form of fainting. Vasovagal syncope occurs due to the disruptions in the normal balance of neurotransmitters in your body. This balance regulates your heart rate and blood vessels. So, the imbalance can lead to a temporary decrease in the blood flow to your brain. It is the most common cause of fainting in people. You can face the problem when you go through a stressful or dangerous condition. But, you can recover without any complication promptly. It most requires no medical attention.
Blackouts occur when your brain experiences damage due to using recreational drugs or excess alcohol consumption.
Abnormal heart conditions can lead to fainting. It includes an abnormal heart rate or rhythm (cardiac arrhythmias). The structural abnormalities of heart valves or muscles. You can also faint when you suffer from a condition called postural hypotension. It occurs when you suffer from blackouts when you stand abruptly from a sitting or lying position. It occurs due to insufficient blood flow to the brain.
Any recent traumatic event leading to memory loss like anterograde amnesia can lead to fainting. In such cases, you tend to forget everything happened before or right after the traumatic event.
Fainting can accompany other symptoms. The symptoms vary based on the health condition you suffer or the underlying cause of the problem. You can regain the memories after recovering from the fainting spell. You need to get the situation assessed by a medical professional as it can cause problems forming new memories. So, evaluation is necessary for fainting, especially after a trauma or injury.
Symptoms Associated With Blackout
Depending on the health issue suffer from, you can observe other signs and symptoms along with fainting. The signs vary depending on the underlying health problem. So, the symptoms are:
Signs When You Suffer Nervous System Blackouts
When you suffer from a nervous system problem, you can suffer from symptoms apart from fainting. The signs accompanying nervous system issues are:
- Changes in mood
- Alteration in smell/taste or hearing
- Changes in your behavior or personality
- Trouble speaking properly
- Head injury
- Changes in vision
- Spasm/Seizures/Muscle twitching
- Loss of vision
- Memory loss
You can suffer from other signs when blackouts are related to problems with other body systems. In such cases, you need to look out for signs like:
- Body aches
- Nausea accompanied with or without vomiting
- Weight loss
Serious Symptoms Along With Blackouts
When you suffer from a life-threatening condition, then you can suffer from other symptoms. So, when you observe these signs along with fainting, make an appointment with your doctor:
- Chest pain
- Feeling pressure in the chest region
- Change in alertness or level of consciousness (like, incidents of unresponsiveness or passing out)
- Slurred or garbled speech
- High fever (body temperature measures more than 101 degrees Fahrenheit)
- Inability to speak
- Change in mental status
- Observe the change in behavior (like delirium, lethargy, confusion, delusions, and hallucinations)
- Suffer from the worst headache of your life
- Paralysis or inability to move your body part
- Breathing problems or respiratory issues like choking, labored breathing, shortness of breath, wheezing, difficulty breathing or inability to breathe.
These signs indicate a life-threatening condition that requires immediate evaluation by medical experts in a professional setting.
Causes Of Blackouts
Different conditions can lead to fainting spells. A variety of conditions or events can play a role in the problem. When your brain suffers damage, you can experience the condition. The different causes associated with the condition are:
High Alcohol Consumption
When you consume alcohol, it increases blood alcohol content. It affects the ability to form new memories. Intoxication impairs the specific ability. But, it does not erase the memories created before intoxication. When you drink more alcohol, the blood alcohol levels rise leading to fainting. Your frequency and length of unconsciousness increases. The amount of memory loss varies from one person to another. Alcohol intoxication can cause the following issues:
- You find it difficult to walk properly
- Trouble forming sentences (difficulty speaking to others)
- Difficulty in standing in an upright position
- Impaired judgment
- Blurry vision
The effects of alcohol intoxication depend on the following:
- Your weight
- Gender of a person
- The type of alcohol consumed (blood alcohol levels rises with beverages having high alcohol percentage)
- How quickly you consume the alcohol
You cannot determine the exact number of drinks that can trigger unconsciousness. So, you need to understand the effects of your body when you consume alcohol. So, your risk of fainting comes down to the amount of alcohol in the drink you consume and how your body reacts to it.
Traumatic Incidents Causing Blackouts
When you suffer some unexpected traumatic events, which affect your head, then you can suffer from blackouts. The trauma to the head can cause damage to the brain, leading to the condition. The events or diseases causing such complications are:
- The complication caused by brain surgery
- Electroshock therapy
- Mild head injury
- Inoculations and injection
- Traumatic emotional event
Substance-Related Issues Of Blackouts
Fainting can occur due to the use of recreational drugs or other substances like alcohol. So, you can suffer from the issue due to the following:
- Alcohol intoxication
- Recreational drug use
- Exposure to poisons like pesticides or cleaning chemicals
- Side effects due to medications used for cancer treatment or seizures
- Anesthesia agents
Diseases Causing Blackouts
You can suffer from diseases causing fainting episodes. So, the health issues triggering the problem are:
- Brain tumor or injury
- Spinal cord trauma or tumor
- Dehydration (loss of fluids as well as electrolytes causing life-threatening complication without treatment)
- Cardiac arrhythmia
- Epilepsy (the disorder of the brain, causing recurrent seizures)
- Nutritional deficiency
- Brain infection
- Postural hypotension
- Inflammation and swelling of the brain caused by a viral infection (Encephalitis)
- Nutrient deficiency
- Parkinson’s disease (the disorder of the brain affecting a person’s movement and coordination)
Serious/Life-Threatening Causes Of Blackouts
In some cases, blackouts may be a symptom of a serious or life-threatening condition that should be evaluated immediately in an emergency setting. These include:
- Traumatic injury
- Irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias)
- Heart attack (myocardial infarction)
- Abnormal/weakened heart muscle, leading to malfunction of the heart (Cardiomyopathy)
- Severe infection
- Heart valve diseases and disorders
People Prone To Blackouts
Some people are prone to blackout more compared to others. The risk factors associated with the episodes are:
Excess Alcohol Consumption
Middle-aged men and women who suffer from alcoholism can experience fainting episodes. Their heavy drinking habits put them at risk of the condition. Women who tend to consume less amount of alcohol compared to women can also suffer from fainting spells. It is linked to their physiological factors. Since the alcohol distribution in women’s bodies, key enzyme levels, and their metabolism is different compared to men, they tend to experience the issue more.
Low Blood Pressure
When you suffer from low blood pressure, it puts you at risk of dizziness and fainting frequently. The low pressure reduces your heart’s ability to pump enough oxygen-rich blood to your brain. So, it results in fainting.
Low Blood Sugar
People suffering from diabetes and non-sufferers can experience a condition called hypoglycemia. It can reduce the energy levels in your body and cause shaking or fainting.
If you suffer from the neurological disorder that causes abnormal brain activity, then you can suffer from loss of awareness. So, people suffering from the condition can experience seizures, loss of sensations, strange behavior or fainting spells.
People who experience extreme stress in their personal and professional life can suffer from fainting spells. Physical and mental stress can lead to psychogenic seizures.
Reactions to Medications
Some medications can have negative effects on your arrhythmias or blood pressure. So, you can suffer from fainting episodes when you take the following medications:
- Arterial vasodilators
So, always talk to your doctor regarding the side-effects of the medications. Weigh the pros and cons before taking them.
Blackouts can occur due to a wide variety of reasons. So, you need to see a doctor for proper evaluation. During the appointment, your doctor can suggest the following tests to detect the issue conclusively:
Complete Medical History
You need to inform your doctor about the physical ailments you suffer, the medication you take, and your family history of diseases.
Check Blood Pressure
Since low blood pressure can lead to fainting spells, your doctor checks your blood pressure levels to see if that causes the problem.
To check your blood sugar levels, you need to submit a sample of your blood to the lab. The test can reveal if you suffer from low blood sugar levels.
Your doctor can suggest imaging tests of the brain and heart to check for any abnormal conditions that lead to the condition.
If the doctor suspects epilepsy or psychogenic seizures, then the EEG test can reveal if you suffer from the condition or not.
Echo Cardiogram helps detect the heart problem causing fainting spells.
Since most of the blackouts are misdiagnosed as epilepsy, your doctor needs to check your condition thoroughly to detect what exactly causes the fainting spells.
Treatment For Blackouts
Based on the diagnosis, your doctor can devise a treatment plan meeting your needs. You need to follow the treatment plan religiously to manage the condition and prevent any complications.
Complications Of Blackouts
When you suffer from blackouts, you need to understand it may have complications. While the severity of the complications depends on the underlying cause of the problem, you must never ignore it. So, you need to seek a doctor’s assistance to uncover the underlying medical problem causing it. With early intervention and management, you can avoid several complications. Once your doctor diagnoses the problem, it is important to follow the guidelines suggested by the doctor. Failure to follow the customized treatment plan can put you at risk. The complications associated with not getting prompt treatment are:
Serious Complications/Irreversible Damage
Any serious underlying disease can lead to fainting spells. So, you need to seek treatment to deal with it. Without treatment, you can suffer severe or irreversible complications.
Without getting treatment, you can experience problems like:
- Injury while falling during the episode
- Brain damage
- Neurological issues like confusion or memory loss
- Irreversible nerve damage (for example, paralysis)
Is it possible to prevent blackouts? Depending on the underlying cause of the issues, you can take steps to avoid fainting.
Steps To Prevent Vasovagal Syncope
It is the common cause of fainting caused due to the problems with the nerves connecting your heart and blood vessels. Since the nerve connects your heart as well as blood vessels, the problem with nerves can lead to irregularities of the heartbeat. You can deal with the non-serious problem by taking some steps:
- You need to avoid triggers causing such episodes. So, try to avoid the sight of blood or standing for a long time.
- Include moderate exercise in your daily routine.
- If you take medications that lower blood pressure, then discontinue such drugs (like diuretics) after consulting your doctor.
- You need to keep up blood volume by including salt in your diet.
- Maintain blood volume by drinking plenty of fluids.
- Wear abdominal binders or compression stockings.
Steps To Prevent Alcohol-Induced Blackouts
When you are addicted to alcohol, you can suffer from loss of consciousness. The severity of the issue differs from one person to another. It also depends on the amount of drink, the time you take to complete the drink, and your physiology. These factors affect the duration of your fainting spell. The factors affecting the time your fainting spell lasts are:
- Your body comes back to consciousness from the fainting spell when your body completely absorbs all the alcohol consumed. So, your brain resumes making memories again. When your body gets complete rest, then it helps you overcome intoxication. Sleeping can provide time for your body to process alcohol and get back to a normal routine.
- Some people can digest liquor while they are awake. So, it can cause unconsciousness to last from a few minutes to even days.
- While people can recover from the episode, a single episode can lead to severe consequences. You can suffer from irreversible or fatal complications with just one episode.
Prevent Alcohol-Induced Blackouts
IF you drink alcohol, then you face the risk of fainting due to it. But, you can prevent the severity and frequency of the episodes. To completely avoid the condition, you need to abstain from alcohol. It is not possible for all people. So, the best method is to control the moderation and pace of drinking. The problem is more prone among people who indulge in binge drinking. It means you tend to consume several drinks than suggested within two hours. In men, it is defined as drinking five or more drinks within two hours while women who consume four or more drinks come under the category. Apart from fainting binge drinking can also lead to alcohol poisoning. It is not easy to restrict alcohol consumption easily. So, if you want to prevent the episodes, follow the instructions suggested below:
- Before consuming alcohol, you need to eat heavy appetizers or a meal. It will help absorb alcohol from your body.
- Instead of gulping the alcohol in one go, you need to drink it slowly. Try to take sips. It will help you track how alcohol affects the functioning of your body.
- You need to drink a glass of water between alcoholic drinks. It limits the number of alcoholic beverages you consume. It also slows down your consumption.
Steps To Prevent Blackouts Due To Traumatic Events
When you suffer from traumatic events, you can experience episodes of panic or fainting. So, you need to follow the pointers suggested below to manage the problem:
- Continue with your positive contact as the support from important people can help you deal with the trauma.
- Talk to a professional counselor about your trauma and the problem you suffer due to it.
- Surround yourself with positive emotions and laughter. A positive mental attitude helps you deal with the issue.
If you experience blackouts, then you need to consult a doctor. It is to diagnose the problem properly and find the root cause of the problem. A simple problem requires no special treatment. You can manage the triggers easily by keeping notes of each time the incidents leading to fainting. Change eating, managing stress, and stay hydrated. But, for the serious complications, you need to get a doctor’s assistance. Try to avoid bad habits like using recreational drugs or alcohol to avoid the problem. With proper care and assistance, you can manage the condition from affecting your life adversely.View Article Sources