Dizziness and Syncope

Feeling dizzy once in a while may be a benign occurrence. But dizziness and fainting (syncope) can also be due to serious health conditions, including heart problems.

Dizziness and Syncope
Feeling dizzy or passing out may be a sign of cardiovascular disease.


If you feel dizzy or faint, it’s important to sit or lie down until the feeling subsides, since passing out while standing can lead to injuries.

Feeling dizzy or lightheaded occasionally may not be a cause for concern, but sometimes this sensation is due to an underlying medical condition, so it’s important to tell your doctor if you experience any episodes of dizziness. Fainting, also known as syncope, should be evaluated promptly since it can be a sign of cardiovascular disease.

Causes & Risk Factors

The main factors that may increase your risk of syncope are advanced age, the presence of cardiovascular or cerebrovascular disease, and a family history of cardiovascular issues.

There are several types of syncope, generally defined by their different triggers. The exact cause of a fainting episode may not always be identifiable, but passing out is usually related to one of the following categories:

Cardiac syncope - Roughly 15% of all fainting episodes are due to cardiac syncope, a situation in which the heart isn’t delivering enough blood to the brain. Both electrical and structural problems within the cardiovascular system can cause this type of syncope.

Cerebrovascular syncope - When the blood vessels in and around the brain aren’t functioning correctly, the blood supply to the brain may be reduced enough to cause a loss of consciousness. This scenario, called cerebrovascular syncope, can be a result of injury or certain health conditions.

Vasovagal syncope -The most common type of passing out, vasovagal syncope (also called reflex syncope) occurs when the body overreacts to certain triggers, resulting in a sudden temporary drop in blood pressure. This kind of syncope, which is often benign, can be caused by extreme emotional distress, intense pain, or even coughing and laughing.

Orthostatic syncope - If you’ve ever felt lightheaded when you stand up from a seated or lying position, you’ve experienced orthostatic syncope, which can occur when a change in posture causes a temporary dip in blood pressure. Dehydration, alcohol use, and certain medications can also cause this effect.

Treatment & Prevention

In order to develop the best treatment plan for your syncope, the team at Manhattan Cardiovascular Associates will need to determine the specific cause of your symptoms. The most useful diagnostic tools for this purpose include electrocardiograms, echocardiograms, carotid ultrasounds, stress tests, and heart monitors.