Frequently Asked Questions

What causes a person to fall?

There are many reasons for falls. In order to determine the most likely cause of a fall, a detailed history needs to be taken. The factors mentioned below are the most frequent causes for falls and it is not uncommon that more than one of these factors combined leads to a fall rather one factor alone.  This includes:

  • Low blood pressure conditions
  • Cardiac arrhythmias (heart rate and rhythm problems)
  • Epilepsy
  • Vertigo
  • Poor balance
  • Inactivity and stiffness
  • Joint problems
  • Vision impairment
  • Poorly controlled medical conditions (such as diabetes)
  • Thyroid problems
  • Arthritis
  • Stroke
  • Brain disorder

Environmental Factors also play a role in falls, such as:

  • Loose mats
  • Slippery surfaces
  • Uneven steps/pavements
  • Loose cables & flexes
  • Poor lighting
  • Icy or wet external conditions
  • Inappropriate foot wear

Why do I feel dizzy?

There are many reasons for dizziness, which may be transient or present constantly. It often occurs frequently and without warning. There may also be other symptoms such as nausea, vision or hearing impairments, sweating, palpitations, and a warm feeling.  There are numerous causes for dizziness which are listed below:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Dehydration
  • Low blood pressure
  • Heart rate and rhythm abnormalities
  • Prescription medications
  • Breathing problems which lead to poor oxygen supply to the brain (such as hyperventilation, obstructive airways disease)
  • Anaemia (low haemoglobin level)
  • Thyroid and adrenal problems

What is low blood pressure?

One cause of low blood pressure is a condition called Orthostatic Hypotension which describes a drop in blood pressure during postural change (change in position from lying/sitting to standing) which is sufficient to cause inadequate blood supply to the brain. It can also be called postural hypotension. This results in symptoms such as dizziness, falls and blackouts.

The drop in blood pressure is not present continuously and may occur quickly.  It may happen at any time after getting up from either lying or sitting down.  In most cases, being promptly placed in the lying position rapidly relieves symptoms.

People with high blood pressure can develop episodes of low blood pressure especially where they are being treated with prescription medication.

Why am I having blackouts?

A blackout can occur for many reasons and it is usually due to loss of consciousness, or a ‘faint’ which is short lived, and recovery is complete and spontaneous. It may also be described as syncope. Epileptic episodes are also described as blackouts.

People can experience syncope and be perfectly healthy. Some people experience an episode once or twice in their lives, while others may experience numerous episodes. The fainting can be brought up by stress, an uncomfortable physical position, heat, dehydration, crowded spaces, or shock.

What is syncope?

Syncope, or fainting as it is commonly known, is a sudden and brief loss of consciousness from which recovery is spontaneous.  Some people can experience syncope and be perfectly healthy.  Some people experience an episode once or twice in their lives, while others may experience numerous episodes.  The fainting can be brought on by stress, an uncomfortable physical position, heat dehydration, crowded spaces or shock.

What are the different types of syncope?

There are many different types of Syncope, they include the following:

Vasovagal Syncope is an exaggerated tendency towards the common faint.  It is caused by pooling of blood in the legs (often through prolonged standing or sitting), which causes a drop in blood pressure, which then stimulates a reflex action, causing a further huge drop in blood pressure and/or heart rate (pulse). When this happens insufficient blood gets to the brain and dizziness and blackouts occur.  Promptly being placed in the lying down position rapidly relieves symptoms in most cases. Other terms used to describe this condition are reflex syncope, neuromediated syncope, or neurocardiogenic syncope. Such faints are generally not harmful unless someone falls and is injured. Some patients may require medications and pacemakers to treat blackouts/syncope.

Situational Syncope refers to syncope brought on by certain situations, such as pain, cough, laughter, post-prandial (after eating), post micturition (after passing urine).

Cardiac Syncope refers to syncope related to underlying cardiac problems relating to the electrical activity of the heart or structural problems of the heart.

Should I see my doctor if I faint?

Fainting can sometimes be a sign of an underlying health problem such as a circulatory/metabolic or neurological disorder, and for this reason it is important to seek medical attention after fainting.