Syncope (fainting) and migraine

Fainting spells (syncope) are more common in people who suffer from migraine headaches. Compared with control subjects, migraineurs have a higher lifetime prevalence of syncope (46 vs 31%), frequent syncope (five or more attacks) (13 vs 5%), and being lightheaded on standing up or on prolonged standing (32 vs 12%).

It appears that syncope is also a more common symptom of migraine than previously suspected, according to a study by Case Western Reserve neurologists.

The study involved 248 patients who had at least 3 episodes of syncope. Of these patients, 127 had a headache at the time of syncope and 121 did not. Syncopal headaches were classified as either syncopal migraine or a non-migraine headache. The syncope groups were then compared to 199 patients with migraine headaches.

Nearly one-third of recurrent syncope patients met criteria for syncopal migraine. This group resembled the migraine headache population more than the syncope population in age, gender, autonomic nervous system testing, and associated medical conditions. The syncopal migraine group also reported a longer duration of syncope and a longer recovery time to normal. Finally, anti-migrainous medications reduced syncope in half in the syncopal migraine patients.

The authors concluded that syncope may have a migrainous basis more commonly than previously suspected.

To reduce your propensity to fainting, try to avoid dehydration, hunger, sleep deprivation, alcohol, and other triggers that you can identify. Cardiovascular conditioning is also likely to help.

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