Why do I blackout so often?
August 31, 2008 6:27 AM   Subscribe

Why do I blackout so often?

I blackout quite often. Its always when I get up after sitting down for a while. This is so even after I eat, so it isn't because I have nothing in my tummy. I usually blackout for 3-8 seconds and am a little dizzy for this time. I can't see anything and I usually hold onto a wall till it passes away. Once I tried walking during the blackout and I bumped into things and fell down some steps.

I'm male, in my mid twenties, and this has happened to me all my life. I'm skinny, my BMI is 17.2. My appetite is enormous, I eat a lot, and I have stayed this skinny since puberty. I smoke. I don't do drugs, I drink socially. I dont exercise much though.

I blackout maybe twice a day? Yeah.
There is no residual pain or any kind, so I blackout, hold onto the wall and move on. These blackouts dont happen when I drink: I mean alcohol is not the cause, of this I am sure, since I started blacking out years before I started drinking.

What is it? I something wrong with me, can I fix it somehow? Is it harmless? Do you people have this too? Does this happen to you people whose BMI is higher? With obese people also? Does it have to do with my metabolism?

posted by anonymous to Health & Fitness (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Do you have any idea what your blood pressure is? And...have you talked to a doctor about this?
posted by leahwrenn at 6:34 AM on August 31, 2008

Get tested for Type 1 diabetes, same thing happened to me around 16. I was drinking 2 glasses a water in the middle of the night, peeing like there was no tomorrow, losing weight but still eating like a horse. If I got up after sitting down for 30 minutes all the blood from my head would drain and I would get disorientated and blackout...

Juvenile(Type 1) diabetes can be diagnosed as late as 25.
posted by wavering at 6:38 AM on August 31, 2008

IANAD, but it sounds like orthostatic hypotension, worth seeing a doctor about.
posted by vers at 6:39 AM on August 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

I have very low blood pressure and this happens to me particularly early in the morning, if I go quickly from lying down or sitting to standing, I can blackout a little. Now, you don't actually pass out do you? Exercise helped this a little, as well as just plain old getting older. I'd mention it to your doc the next time you go in, but I wouldn't worry terribly much about it in the meantime.
posted by jessamyn at 6:42 AM on August 31, 2008 [1 favorite]

Sounds very similar to what I also experience with low blood pressure. Making sure I eat enough salt controls it for me, but see your doctor.
posted by goo at 6:53 AM on August 31, 2008

Same thing happens to me, and a visit with a nurse confirmed it was my blood pressure. Last tested three months ago, 108 / 76,with a resting pulse of 63.

I've actually got to be careful if I'm sitting for long periods of time - e.g., a boring meeting. What helps me in these situations is to carefully and starting with my toes, clench every muscle in my legs. If I don't do this I sometimes will indeed either partially or fully pass out (which can be rather useful depending upon the situation).

Further reference: I'm 52, my cholesterol is so damn low it's barely measurable, but my BMI 25.05 indicates I'm overweight which anyone who has meet me will confirm is bollocks (see for yourself). I've got a lot of muscle mass, and don't carry a spare tire either.
posted by Mutant at 7:07 AM on August 31, 2008

You likely will find your answers at the Vanderbilt Autonomic Dysfunction Center. My 20 year old son has had the same problem since he was about 5. We went through the rounds of pediatric cardiologists, neurologists, etc., etc. etc., and finally wound up at Vanderbilt last spring (after a 6 month wait for an appointment - it was worth the wait) Get tested - the good news is that the problem is not life threatening (other than if you hit your head when you fall) -- and that there are techniques for helping to manage it. Some people grow out of it. Good luck.
posted by peace_love_hope at 7:23 AM on August 31, 2008

Not normal, sounds like orthostatic hypotension, can be dangerous. See a doctor about it. Orthostatic hypotension is a syndrome with many causes; it is important to learn the cause before tryig to fix it.

Meanwhile, when the "blackout" occurs, do not remain standing erect. Instead, sit down or lie down, preferably with your head lower than your heart, so blood flow to the head can be restored as quickly as possible.
posted by ikkyu2 at 7:38 AM on August 31, 2008

Well I don't know if it's the same issue, but I once asked this question: How can I raise my blood pressure?
posted by stray at 7:45 AM on August 31, 2008

This does not sound like Type-1 Diabetes.
posted by luckypozzo at 9:54 AM on August 31, 2008

This has happened to me (albeit with a lesser frequency of blackouts) since I was a young teen... I'm in my early 20's and it still happens from time to time. I saw my doctor about it, and it wasn't my blood pressure or weight (I'm like a 19 or 20 on BMI scale for reference). She said it was a mild case of vertigo and there wasn't much I could do about it. Sometimes if I know I've been sitting for a while, kicking my legs under the desk for about 30 seconds will prevent it, sort of get the blood pumping and prepares my body for standing up and moving around again. Be careful that you always have something nearish (like a wall) in those few moments you start to feel dizzy, just before you black out. One time I got up from the couch and was walking through the middle of the kitchen, and the next thing I knew, I was slumped over on the floor, with a bump on my head and a bloody elbow from crashing into the cabinets. Ouch. Next time you're at your doctor, it wouldn't hurt to mention it.
posted by potatopeople at 10:50 AM on August 31, 2008

This happened when I was a teenager. I was skinny too... I still am, but have gained about 15 pounds since that time period. (went from 6'0'' 145# to 6'0'' 160# now) It doesn't happen anymore, except maybe once a year.

Not sure if I grew out of it, if the weight gain from weight lifting fixed it, or otherwise. Thinking back on it, that feeling was kind of neat, you vision goes to TV static and then black... it wasn't even that unpleasant except for being incapacitated for about 5 seconds. Not saying that I want it back, though, that's for sure.
posted by zhivota at 12:46 PM on August 31, 2008

This has happened to me since around puberty, and consistently while I've been (according to BMI) morbidly obese, obese, and overweight. I'm 21, female, nonsmoker. I've always had low blood pressure -- 90something over 60something isn't unusual for me if I'm relaxed. I've brought it up to doctors, who've said it's not a big deal, but I should eat more salt. I've also been told it's called a "grayout," since you don't actually black out.
posted by booksandlibretti at 1:51 PM on August 31, 2008

Another one here. I have done it all my life, every few days or so, after getting up from a lie-down. I've had a few extra pounds most of my life, but I was never obese or described as prediabetic. When I was a kid, I just thought it was normal to have your eyes go black for a few seconds if you got up too quickly sometimes, sort of like an ice cream headache.

Like Dr. I. says, it isn't normal, but although someone needs to be told, that doesn't necessarily mean it's a huge issue. A cardiologist told me it wasn't going to be a problem, once he had taken an overall look at my system.
posted by Countess Elena at 4:13 PM on August 31, 2008

I can't tell you what the problem is, but I can urge you to find out as much as you can about it.

A friend of mine has a similar issue, and it caused her to fall down a flight of stairs once. She was lucky not to have broken her neck.

If you have blackouts you put yourself at a higher risk of falls like this. Even if you don't end up being able to treat the problem, you might be able to understand the triggers and learn to avoid situations where you might do yourself an injury.
posted by fonetik at 6:55 PM on August 31, 2008

A friend had similar symptoms to the ones you describe (blacking out after standing up), and after many, many medical tests, it turned out she had a mild form of epilepsy.
posted by nextian_geometry at 7:44 PM on August 31, 2008

I just read an article about a young man who had your exact symptoms, and nobody could diagnose it for years. The young man (and his mother) found a doctor who knew what it was--something incredibly rare. I am going to look for the article (I can't remember where I saw it just now) and I will post it here as soon as I find it.
posted by tzikeh at 11:42 PM on August 31, 2008

It is orthostatic hypotension. Do not worry about it too much. Consider all medications you are on as they are usually the culprit of orthostatic hypotension
posted by phllip.phillip at 11:53 AM on September 1, 2008

Late to the party, but...

I used to get blackouts from standing up quickly, and for me the culprit was dehydration. I also got headaches from this. (Note that alcohol and caffeine are diuretics -- they make you pee. So drinking beer or a Coke can actually make the problem worse.) You may need to drink more water (and less alcohol/caffeine) than you have been. Eating more salt will help with water retention.

Try drinking more water or non-caffeinated drinks and using more salt for a few days -- or, ideally, drink diluted gatorade. See if it helps.

Me: Tall, skinny (or was), fit, drink socially, non-smoker
posted by LordSludge at 10:32 AM on September 2, 2008

This is what I would refer to as ¨feeling faint¨. Check out this page on syncope.

It sounds like you need to have more salt in your diet, and drink a bit more water.

Do talk to your doctor next time you see them, but don´t use the word ¨blackout¨ to describe your vision going black for a few seconds, just tell them that your vision goes black. ¨Blackout¨ commonly refers to an alcoholic blackout, which is when someone drinks so much that they don´t remember what happened over a period of time, things like not being able to remember how they got home or what they did the night before.
posted by yohko at 8:00 PM on September 2, 2008

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