I was sitting down and having lunch with my parents about a week ago and suddenly I was nauseous and felt like vomiting. Then I started hearing ringings in my ears, I became light headed and it got worse by the second, voices became distant, and the next thing I knew I had passed out for a few minutes, only to regain consciousness to my Dad's worried voice: "Vicky, can you hear me?" and I was perspiring heavily after that.
What had just happened?
I think a number of things were going on. I was having stomachache in the morning and I just got my period that day. So on top of the diarrhea, my stomach also hurt from the cramps. I didn't know if that had anything to do with my loss of appetite that afternoon or why I felt like vomiting. But I do know I have a low blood pressure and this in fact wasn't my first time fainting. It was actually my fourth time throughout my adulthood. It happened once every few years it seems.
I asked my parents what happened. I only remembered feeling so light headed and I didn't remember the rest until I regained consciousness. I was in a sitting down position. They told me my face turned so pale and I couldn't lift my head, so my dad supported my neck, not knowing what to do. Thankfully there was a doctor who was eating by our table and he quickly came over and told my Dad to put me down flat. Lying down flat allowed oxygen to flow back to the brain, which made me regain consciousness. If it wasn't for the doctor, my parents otherwise wouldn't know that they had to do that, and a seizure may happen due to the lack of oxygen in the brain. Later on I went to the doctor and he explained I suffered from a condition called Vasovagal Reflex.
What is a Vasovagal Reflex? What Causes It? What are the Symptoms? Is it Dangerous?
Vasovagal reflex is a condition to a body's sudden drop in blood pressure and heart rate, often causing a person to faint as there is not enough oxygen in the brain.
"Episodes of vasovagal response are typically recurrent, and usually occur when the predisposed person is exposed to a specific trigger. Prior to losing consciousness, the individual frequently experiences early signs of symptoms such as lightheaded, nausea, the feeling of being extremely hot or cold (accompanied by sweating), ringing in the ears (tinnitus), an uncomfortable feeling in the heart, fuzzy thoughts, confusion, a slight inability to speak/form words (sometimes combined with mild stuttering), weakness and visual disturbances such as lights seeming too bright, fuzzy or tunnel vision, black cloud-like spots in vision, and a feeling of nervousness can occur as well. The symptoms last for a few seconds before the loss of consciousness (if it is lost), which typically happens when the person is sitting up or standing. When sufferers pass out, they fall down (unless this is impeded) and, when in this position, effective blood flow to the brain is immediately restored, allowing the person to regain consciousness; if the person does not fall into a fully flat, supine position, and the head remains elevated above the trunk, a seizure may result from blood's inability to return quickly to the brain. Fainting occurs with the loss of oxygen to the brain." (source)
Many things can trigger a vasovagal reflex including dehydration, hunger, standing for too long, menstrual cramps, stress, heat exposure, and low blood sugar. The danger about this condition is that it can happen so suddenly and without warning. Symptoms may be just a few seconds before one loses consciousness, which was what happened to me. Although the condition itself is not considered life threatening, the risk of injury from falling while the person is unconscious is what can be dangerous. I was telling myself, what if that happened when I was alone, or with only my baby? Truly God was watching over me the past four times it happened. Each was a unique circumstance and there has always been someone else with me.
What to do if you experience a Vasovagal Reflex?
Immediately lie down, fully flat. It gets your blood back up again.
What did I learn from this incident?
To know that I may experience vasovagal reflex in the future again is a concern. So if you have this condition, it is good to take a few precautions so that other people around you know what to do.
- Tell your close family and friends about your condition so they know how to react when it happens again.
- Provide them with emergency contacts, including phone numbers of your family, ambulance, hospital, doctor, etc.
- Don't starve. Don't skip meals or get too hungry. Keep a few nutritious snacks with you if you know you will be waiting somewhere where there is no access to food. One of the triggers of a vasovagal reflex is low blood sugar, so it's important for someone with this condition to keep their blood sugar up.
What can I do to improve my (low) blood pressure?
- Exercise. Regular exercise promotes blood flow.
- Eat a diet higher in salt.
- Drink more water, especially during hot seasons.
- Avoid prolonged exposure to hot temperatures/water such as in spas.
- Be careful not to rise too quickly from lying or sitting down position.
When this happened, I can't not think of "what if's" and it was a convicting reminder that when it's all said and done, the most important thing in life is not how much wealth we have accumulated or how popular we are or whose ways are right or wrong, but whether we have lived this life purposefully, leaving a legacy worth passing on, and loving others as God has instructed us to do.
Have you experienced vasovagal reflex before?