Vaso-Vagal Discussion

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Some Information instead of just a story...



I'm really glad that I found this forum... atleast i know now that I'm not nuts!

I noticed there are a lot of posts about experiences, so I wanted to post some information to go along with it since I've done a lot of research lately about it due to my diagnosis as having vasovagal syncope.

As you can see from the posts, it manifests itself in different forms and degrees. From the research that i have done, it looks like there are 2 basic kinds... the kind that is a result of direct "stimulation" of the vagal nerve (more common in older men, the ones you hear about passing out them they urinate, etc.) and the kind that is a malfunction of the way your body handles stress (more often the kind found in women, especially younger, healthy, active women).

Since it seems that most of the people here experience the second kind (which is what i have) - notice I said that most often it is younger healthy women. Know, that this in not some kind of defect because you are healthy. It is more common because it restricts their activities (and you know what we do when we are told, or in this case feel like we can't do something....we complain). Also, it is NOT life threatening unless by some freak circumstances you are tied in a standing position and never allowed to lie down to allow your body to equalize and "heal" itself. That, or you pass out while you are driving... but that's more of an indirect result.

Anyway, as far as diagnosis.. I've seen many doctors, they do not all know about it, nor are all concerned, nor know the sames things about it. Often it is mis diagnosed as epilepsy (i myself was made to take nuerontin for complex partial siezures until it made me too sick), panic attacks and anxiety, hypoglycemia, as well as some others. In my case, my family doctor finally sent me to the cardiologist kind of "just to please me", but it was a good thing because he kknew exactly what it was.

What is it? it is an INVOLUNTARY (meaning you can't control it) reflex. the way your body responds to stressors is different than what it is supposed to be. most of the time it is an over reaction. stressors can be anything including heat, low bloods sugar, life stress, seeing needles, fear, pain, smells, basically anything. What happens is your body encounters this stressor and has to respond (often called the flight or fight response) the first part of this is the sympathetic nervous system starts your body into "fight" mode and speeds things up moves resources to the places that need it often resulting in blood pressure increase and HR increase. The problem comes when your body needs to slow back down and return to normal. This is taken over by the parasympathetic nervous system and when this tried to slow you down so much that you go below your baseline stats is when you pass out or have a vagal episode. the slowing down happens because 1 of three things - your blood pressure drops too low, your heart rate drops too low, or both drop too low.

Symptoms - they vary widely. for me it is this order extreme pain in my stomach, pain falls down to intestines and often causes diarhea, feeling of need to vomit, hot flashes, clamminess, shaking, blurred/tunnel vision, dulled hearing, extreme weakness, lightheadedness like you could just close your eyes and go to sleep, and eventually fainting. Many people can feel these symptoms coming on from the very very beginning and can make it stop. Although you can avoid it, it does get very annoying that you ahve to be concerned about it all the time and trying to control things all the time.

tests to confirm - from what i've been told, the only test that can positively identifiy it is a tilt table test. There are varying descriptions of them on the internet, some scarier than others. For me, I was strapped to a table with blood pressure cuffs on both arms. Stood there for 15 minutes and nothing happened (this was expected since i can often control the symptoms), then they put a nitroglycerin tablet under my tongue and i went out almost immediately. Cool fact... mine was caused because my heart slowed down, it slowed down that it stopped for 12 seconds. Once i came back around the test was over and as with any other vagal episode you feel very sick and weak afterwards for several hours.

treatment - you can either live with the symptoms and try to keep hydrated, exercise, and if the blood pressure kind, increase your salt intake (however as a woman, i tried this, it sucks because it makes you very bloated, blech) or you can take medicine to regulate it. Extremem cases might require even more drastic measures, pacemakers and what not, but most people i would think are moderate. Anyway, the medicines are beta blockers, but that doesn't mean just zoloft and the like. the first like of defense is blood pressure medications like atenolol (which in me, regulates my heartrate i was told), if you don't respond well to that they can use many other medications including the anti-depressants. Personally, i felt much better and didn't have any side affects except my blood pressure and HR baselines dropped about 10 points to around 93/58 and 66. But really, I feel alot better and like i have more energy and sleep better.

as far as other diseases/syndromes - it doesn't cause nor is caused by anything else, but is often found along with other things like IBS, anxiety, depression, hypoglycemia, diabetes, etc.

btw, i'm not old, I'm 22 and have been experiencing these episodes since i was five when my mom changed my earrings the first time, stupid huh? One time it happened and I got kicked or rather carried out of a club and left by the dumpsters in the back because they didn't want to be liable for it.

Please feel free to email me with any questions you might have, like i said, i've read a lot and asked a lot of questions. i just want people to know what it is. It isn't a bad thing, as my doctor said, its just a nusience.

Good luck to everyone...

This web site is not a substitute for a thorough medical evaluation and diagnosis of your vaso-vagal type symptoms.  Medical treatment and diagnosis is the only acceptable initial response to these serious symptoms since they might present from any number of life threatening and treatable illnesses. It is for you and your physician to rule out more serious illnesses; Please don't use this online forum as an alternative to getting responsible medical attention and being under the care of a physician for the duration of any unknown, suspected or dangerous vaso-vagal syndrome symptoms.
Last changed: June 22, 2007