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Heart Rhythm Problems: Symptoms - Topic Overview

How long does syncope last?

It is important to recognize that syncope is transient, meaning that you wake up soon after fainting. Consciousness may return because the arrhythmia spontaneously stops and a normal heart rhythm and blood pressure return. Even if the arrhythmia persists, you may still regain consciousness. When you have an episode of syncope due to an arrhythmia, it typically happens while you are standing or sitting, and the loss of consciousness causes you to fall to the floor. After you are lying down, blood flow returns to your brain, even though your blood pressure may remain low. When adequate blood flow returns to your brain, you will likely wake up.

What are the risks associated with passing out from an arrhythmia?

Fast or slow arrhythmias may cause you to pass out. Depending on your position and activity at the time of the episode, you may seriously injure yourself. If you are standing up at the time of the arrhythmia, you may pass out and fall. The fall may cause you to injure your head, break an arm or leg, or receive other injuries. If you are driving, you may crash, causing severe injury to yourself and anyone else involved.

Passing out may be a sign that you are at risk for a life-threatening arrhythmia. If you have symptoms of an arrhythmia that may cause you to pass out, do not drive any vehicle until your condition has been evaluated and treated.

Shortness of breath

A feeling of shortness of breath, which doctors call dyspnea, frequently happens during arrhythmias. This symptom can be very difficult for people to describe and may be referred to as:

  • Shortness of breath.
  • Tightness in the chest.
  • Being winded.
  • Feeling tired from walking.

What causes shortness of breath?

When an arrhythmia causes the heart to beat too fast, the heart doesn't pump effectively. Specifically, there may not be enough time between heartbeats for the heart to fill with blood, causing blood to back up into the lungs. The increased pressure and fluid in the lungs results in the feeling of shortness of breath.

This information is produced and provided by the National Cancer Institute (NCI). The information in this topic may have changed since it was written. For the most current information, contact the National Cancer Institute via the Internet web site at http:// cancer .gov or call 1-800-4-CANCER.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 12, 2014
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.
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