published Thursday, June 12th, 2014

Ask A Doctor: My sister fainted recently. I'm encouraging her to see a physician. Am I overreacting?

By Dr. Gregg Shander

Q: My sister fainted at a recent family gathering. She seems fine, but I'm encouraging her to see a physician. Am I overreacting?

A: There are many reasons people experience syncope -- the medical term for fainting or passing out. They include standing for a long time, dehydration, overheating and exhaustion. Some medications used to treat high blood pressure and other conditions can also cause fainting. Whatever the cause, fainting is typically the result of a sudden drop in blood pressure that decreases the flow of oxygen-rich blood to the brain. And while causes are often not life-threatening, temporary loss of consciousness can indicate a more serious problem such as an abnormal heartbeat or certain blood vessel diseases. This is especially true for older adults. I recommend anyone who experiences an unexplained fainting spell visit his or her physician. When you visit your physician, be prepared to tell him or her if you:

• Fainted while exercising

• Have a fast or irregular heartbeat

• Have a family history of frequent fainting or sudden cardiac death

— Dr. Gregg Shander, The Chattanooga Heart Institute at Memorial; member, Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society

Readers: To submit a question for a medical doctor, email it to Clint Cooper at

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