Why Do I Feel Faint?

Why Am I Feeling Faint?

Lots of people visit the doctor because they feel giddy or dizzy, it is a common problem. For some people feeling giddy may just be a normal state, for others it may be a sign of an underlying problem. Women are twice as likely as men to have a full-blown fainting attack, hence the need for gentlemen to give up their seats!

Pass Out Cold?
Did you faint and collapse out of the blue? There is great word for this: syncope. It is usually due to what's called a vasovagal attack. This simply means that a nerve called the vagus nerve (extremely long nerve that extends from the head to the tummy) gets over-stimulated and brings about a rapid lowering of your heart rate and blood pressure. This causes you to fall to the floor - which restores your heart rate and blood flow, so no catastrophe. It generally occurs in times of prolonged standing, extreme heat, straining on the toilet, the sight of blood or having blood taken, fear or shock.


There is often no need for testing, but if a faint isn't straightforward or attacks are recurrent, checks need to be made. Heart tests such as an electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) can check the heart's rhythm as irregular beats can cause a collapse. Blood tests for diabetes or anemia will also be ordered, as may blood pressure and heart monitoring over 24 hours. It is important to rule out problems with the heart, blood pressure, blood sugar level, circulation or blood count. By and large, no sinister cause is found in fit young women, and many are simply prone to fainting.

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Do You Feel Faint But Don’t Actually Faint?

This is often due to dehydration or a low blood sugar, as well as low iron level, pregnancy or general fatigue. The difference here is that the brain has not taken over so you are in control and are able to sit, take a drink or get air.

Are You Just Dizzy?

This can happen for similar reasons but, depending on the frequency, it may require further checks. Dizziness and vertigo - a sensation of 'the spins' - may indicate a problem with the inner ear or blood supply to the brain. It may also be an effect of tablets such as beta blockers taken for anxiety or high blood pressure. It is important to explain to the doctor exactly what you mean by dizziness - good balance depends on your brain, eyes and ears all working in sync.


Vertigo gives rise to a sensation that you and the room are spinning. It can be due to a middle ear infection, problems with the balance receptors in the inner ear stimulated by sudden movement, or conditions such as Meniere's disease in which fluid builds up in the middle ear, resulting in buzzing, vertigo and dizziness.

Diagnosing If There Is A Problem

We're all allowed a few faints in our lifetime, and at least half of us will collapse at some point. If you faint and it doesn't make sense, go and see your doctor. Although fainting is common, it's unusual to be a frequent fainter. In those over 40, fainting always warrants a visit to the doctor. As mentioned above, there are numerous reasons for fainting. Most can be diagnosed at the doctor's by a simple examination and blood and urine tests. No further action is usually required, but that's no excuse for ignoring it. Missing something like an irregular heartbeat or a complication of a medication could prove catastrophic.


1. After a night out.
A danger time for fainting is prolonged standing on public transport the morning after the night before. The combination of low blood pressure, dehydration and a fast heart beat is a good mix for hitting the floor.

2. Beware the hairdressers. Having your hair shampooed at the basin - especially if you are elderly - can provoke an attack because the tilt position may affect the blood flow to the head. So always sit for a few moments when you lift your head from the bowl.

Important Articles
Head and face conditions: Different causes of dizziness and head problems.
How menopause affects the body: Understanding the signs and symptoms.
Main causes of death in women: Statistically what is likely to get you in the end.

Got another question? See: Womens Health Questions

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