Near-Fainting with Uncertain Cause

Fainting (syncope) is a temporary loss of consciousness. It's often called passing out. It happens when blood flow to the brain is reduced. Near-fainting (near-syncope) is like fainting, but you don't fully pass out. Instead, you feel like you are going to pass out, but don't actually lose consciousness.

Signs and symptoms

These are symptoms of near-fainting or symptoms that can be associated with near-fainting:

  • Feeling lightheaded or like you are going to faint

  • Weak pulse

  • Nausea

  • Sweating

  • Blurred vision or feeling like your vision is fading

  • Palpitations

  • Chest pain

  • Trouble breathing

  • Feeling cool and clammy


Fainting typically happens when your blood pressure or heart rate suddenly drops, and not enough blood flows to your brain.

Common minor causes include:

  • Sudden emotional stress such as fear, pain, panic, or the sight of blood

  • Straining or overexertion, such as straining while using the toilet, vomiting, coughing, or sneezing

  • Standing up too quickly, or standing up for too long a time

More serious causes include:

  • Very slow, fast, or irregular heart rate (arrhythmia)

  • Dehydration

  • Significant blood loss

  • Medicines, or a recent change in medicines. Medicines that can cause fainting include blood pressure or heart medicines.

  • Heart attack

  • Heart valve problems

Remember, even minor causes can become serious if you fall and injure yourself, or are driving. You may need more tests. It's very important that you follow up with your doctor as advised.

Home care

These guidelines will help you care for yourself at home:

  • Rest today. You can resume most of your normal activities as soon as you are feeling back to normal.

  • If you become lightheaded or dizzy, lie down right away or sit with your head between your knees.

  • Drink plenty of fluids and don't skip meals.

Because the exact cause of your near fainting spell is not known, another spell could occur without warning. To stay safe, don't drive a car or use dangerous equipment. Don't take a bath alone. Don't swim alone. You can resume these activities when your healthcare provider says that you are no longer in danger of having a near-fainting spell.

Follow-up care

Follow up with your healthcare provider, or as advised.

Call 911

Call 911 or get emergency care if any of the following occur:

  • Another near-fainting or full fainting spell occurs, and it's not explained by the common minor causes listed above

  • Chest, arm, neck, jaw, back or abdominal pain

  • Shortness of breath

  • Weakness, tingling, or numbness in one side of the face, or in one arm or leg

  • Slurred speech, confusion, trouble walking or seeing

  • Seizure

When to get medical advice

Call your healthcare provider for advice if any of these occur:

  • Changes in your medicines

  • You start to have near fainting on a more frequent basis

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