Vaso-Vagal Discussion

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VVS?!? Boy, I wish I had known what it was all these years!

From: Christiane in VA


I'm surprised I didn't swallow a fly whilst reading the VVS article - I was so truly astonished to actually find not similar, but EXACT symptoms of what I go through that I read with my mouth wide open in a gasp the whole time!

Female, 34 - that'd be me "Out cold" over 10 times in my life, many times associated or should I say preceeded by the 'feeling' that an extreme diarhea is on it's way. Many times, especially in the last year or two, I get a shooting pain in the center left of my abdomen and seconds, litterally less than 10, my face flushes, I'm hit by sudden cold sweats, tingly feeling around face and in arms, and then just like you mentioned it, I KNOW that I will faint and get myself in a 'ready' position. Here I though it was normal to faint since I've fainted all my life. Again, agreeing with the article, doctors also suggested I was "prone to fainting" and should use caution when getting up and such.

A few times in the last 15 years when it was a newer situation, I even had my husband call 911 to scoop me off the floor. Of course by the time they got there, my blood pressure was back to normal, the faintiness had kinda subsided and so all I got from paramedics was: "you probably tried going to the bathroom and was pushing too hard" even though I kept insisting that I was feeling nauseous and fainty before I even got to the bathroom!

In the last year, things have been a even more rocky. I had a VVS happen 2 hours into a 4 hour flight to Virginia from California. Out of the blue, my heart started just banging in my rib-cage. I thought for sure it was going to explode. Trying to make sense of what was coming over me, I started listening to my body (as opposed to the on-flight movie), tried doing some breathing exercises to try to calm down, and then bang-bang-bang one after the other, all the symptoms of VVS showed up: flush in the face, numbness and tingliness, nausea and pain in the abdomen. Now, not only did I have VVS, but evidently my body knew it was coming and proceeded to panic about it even before my brain knew a thing...

Since that flight last December I have had more than enough of my shares of blooming panic attacks... and they are mostly followed by VVS. It's this awful downward spiral, a vicious circle which I am fighting to overcome. Now for fear of possibly getting VVS which will no-doubt cause or be proceeded by a panic attack, well.. I panic. *sigh*

After my bought on the plane last December, I was brought to a hospital in Virginia where they did a CTScan, EKG and some other cardiac testing. The doctor seeing me wrote a full report on his own fidings and explained the Vaso-Vagal (I said: the WHAT!?!) Syncopy. For the flight back to CA he prescribed I take Xanax (for panic-attacks) and Nulev (an anti-spasmic medicine to calm the digestive system) before getting on the plane. The combination of the two really worked: I was unwakeable for over an hour *laugh* (but at least I wasn't panicking!)

Since moving to Virginia in January (december was house-hunting) I've had to rehash my story to yet again a new doctor. She's sending me (yet-again) for this and that test (urine, blood bla bla bla) but has in the meantime agreed to renew my prescriptions of Xanax and Nulev to at least control/alieve the episodes when I feel I might be having one (of course they come so fast that I'm usually in the middle of my syncopy by the time I take the meds).

Things got really ugly 2 weeks ago when I had my first taste of seisure-like symptoms accompanying my panic attack: body twitching uncontrollably, somewhat feelings of disorientation - it was plain scary. And it happened again just last week... it's just crazy! So that's what prompted me to look online, I mean I've found everything else online before, how is it that I didn't look for this sooner!

By the way, I do have a few personal theories(as in: for myself although others might be able to relate) which I've surmised from all the 15+ years of dealing with this:

1. It seems that 'stress' goes straight to my digestive system and causes me to have diarhea... someone called it "irritable bowel movement" today... could be that I guess. All I know is that I must be stressed even when I don't feel stressed, (such as last December when we had suddenly found out we were being transferred accross the country from CA to VA. I thought I was 'excited'about the whole thing, but I guess excitment can be a form of stress for the body).

2. Many times in the past (and for instance last week) I get very soft bowels just before my period starts... Here I thought I had it good not to have your typical PMS... but now that VVS and panic-attacks enter the equation, it's a nightmare when that time of the month creeps up.

3 I'm TALL (5'11"). Well, you may or may not think this is related but many Docs in the past seemed to think that being tall was the reason I, in general, had a lower blood pressure overall. Having low blood pressure only worked in my favor when I was pregnant. Not now.

I really appreciate putting all this information out there Dr. Herr. If only I had had more clues into this I could've come and knocked on your door (we lived just off Lawrence and 280 for 3 years before moving all the way to the east coast!)

Hopefully you'll still be able to shed a little light on my situation, share tips on what to do to go back to being normal, if there is such thing. All I know is all this has made me feel really run-down, old... and when I do have my syncopies now I have terrible thoughts of "oh no.. is the how it's all going to end? but the kids... what about the kids... oh they'll be fine with their daddy" and then the Xanax finally kicks in.


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