Any altered states of consciousness may occur throughout life. Some are simple, such as a common faint clinically referred to as syncope). Others may be due to age or the use of drugs (orthostatic hypotension). More serious is a coma, when unconsciousness takes place, and this may persist. It is essential that the cause for this be discovered and the appropriate treatment be commenced as a matter of urgency.
Dizzy bouts may occur, some being fairly simple in nature, such as the dizzy bouts of labyrinthitis following malfunction of the balance mechanism after many upper respiratory disorders. Others such as Meniere’s syndrome can recur, producing persisting discomfort and inconvenience. Finally, an odd condition (and not frequently seen) is narcolepsy, where there is an intense desire to sleep for prolonged periods of time.
Fainting also occurs when the brain receives an inadequate supply of blood. It is usually acute in nature, can be sudden in onset and may be relieved promptly by treatment. These are the conditions of syncope and shock.
Syncope is a transient interruption of consciousness due to a sudden failure of the circulation. This usually means the loss of consciousness is transient, and for some minor reason. It lasts only seconds or a few minutes, and then full recovery takes place. It is not due to serious underlying causes.
It is commonly due to inadequate oxygen in the room, or adverse nervous stimulation (watching a psychologically unnerving sight, an accident, seeing blood, or injections being given, in those unaccustomed to this). A nervous shock, injury, sudden change in posture (from lying or sitting to an erect position, particularly in a place that is hot and poorly oxygenated). The patient feels dizzy, weak, hot and clammy and may perspire. Vision blurs, the pulse becomes weak and the patient may fall to the ground.
Treatment is as outlined for loss of consciousness, but a return to consciousness usually occurs rapidly. Raising the lower limbs and lower part of the body telling the patient to breathe deeply, getting plenty of fresh air, asking the crowd to disperse, all help. Remove or loosen belts, ties, neck buttons on shirts, tight bras and girdles.
Shock is a more protracted form of acute circulatory failure resulting in depression of all vital activity, and having characteristic clinical symptoms.