Dizziness & Fainting
Understanding Cardiac-Related Dizziness & Fainting
Experiencing frequent dizzy spells can greatly affect your ability to live and enjoy your life. Though many causes of dizziness are not dangerous, it can sometimes indicate a deeper issue or condition that requires treatment. It is important to reach out to your doctor if you are experiencing bouts of dizziness.
Fainting (also known as syncope) is when you lose consciousness for a brief period of time. Your brain depends on your heart pumping oxygenated blood to it, and many heart conditions prevent the heart from pumping blood and oxygen effectively. When fainting happens as a result of a heart problem, it is called cardiac syncope.
Cardiac Issues That Can Cause Dizziness and Fainting
Dizziness and fainting can be symptoms of a number of medical conditions, including cardiac issues. Some of the most common cardiac causes of dizziness and fainting include:
- Aortic stenosis
Aortic stenosis is a narrowing of the aortic valve, which is located between the heart and the aorta. This narrowing can restrict blood flow from the heart to the rest of the body, which can lead to dizziness and fainting.
- Atrial fibrillation
Atrial fibrillation is a heart rhythm disorder that causes the heart's upper chambers (atria) to quiver instead of beating normally. This can reduce the heart's ability to pump blood effectively, which can lead to dizziness and fainting.
- Heart failure
Heart failure is a condition in which the heart cannot pump enough blood to meet the body's needs. This can lead to a number of symptoms, including dizziness and fainting.
- Cardiac arrhythmia
A cardiac arrhythmia is an irregular heartbeat. There are many different types of cardiac arrhythmias, and some of them can cause dizziness and fainting.
- Mitral valve prolapse
Mitral valve prolapse is a condition in which the mitral valve, which is located between the heart's left atrium and left ventricle, does not close properly. This can cause blood to leak back into the atrium, which can lead to dizziness and fainting.
Testing & Diagnosis for Dizziness and Fainting Caused By Heart Conditions
If you experience dizziness or fainting, your doctor will likely perform a physical exam and ask you about your medical history and symptoms. If your doctor suspects that the cause of your dizziness or fainting is cardiac-related, they may order blood tests, urine tests, and chest X-rays. The following tests may also be administered to uncover the cardiac-related issue causing this symptom:
- Electrocardiogram (EKG)
An EKG is a test that records the electrical activity of your heart. This test can help your doctor to identify any heart rhythm abnormalities that may be causing your dizziness or fainting.
An echocardiogram is a test that uses sound waves to create images of your heart. This test can help your doctor to assess the structure and function of your heart, and to look for any problems that may be causing your dizziness or fainting.
- Holter monitor
A Holter monitor is a small device that records your heart's electrical activity for 24 hours or longer. This test can help your doctor identify any heart rhythm abnormalities that may occur only intermittently.
- Tilt table test
A tilt table test is a test that is used to evaluate orthostatic intolerance, which is a condition in which people feel dizzy or faint when they stand up quickly. This test involves lying down on a table that is then tilted upright. If you experience dizziness or fainting during the test, it may be a sign of orthostatic intolerance.
- Cardiac MRI
A cardiac MRI is a test that uses magnetic fields and radio waves to create images of your heart. This test can help your doctor to assess the structure and function of your heart, and to look for any problems that may be causing your dizziness or fainting.
Treatments for Dizziness and Fainting Caused By Heart Conditions
Dizziness and fainting can be a sign of a serious medical condition. If you experience dizziness or fainting, it is important to see a doctor right away. They can help you determine the cause of your dizziness or fainting and develop a treatment plan that is right for you. The treatment for cardiac-related dizziness and fainting will depend on the underlying cause. Some of the treatments that may be used include:
Medications can be used to treat a variety of cardiac conditions that can cause dizziness and fainting. For example, beta-blockers can be used to treat atrial fibrillation, and antiarrhythmic drugs can be used to treat other types of cardiac arrhythmias.
- Cardiovascular surgery
In some cases, surgery may be necessary to treat a cardiac condition that is causing dizziness and fainting. For example, valve replacement surgery may be necessary to treat aortic stenosis.
- Lifestyle changes
Lifestyle changes can also help to prevent dizziness and fainting. These changes may include losing weight, eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, quitting smoking, and managing stress.