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Please explain thè difference between epilepsy and fainting

(36 Posts)
ash6605 Sat 01-Dec-12 01:20:34

A bit of background, sorry if I ramble but have just gone through a scary experience and am still shaking......DH has always been "a fainter" if he's unwell or nervous he passes out. He's out for minutes, takes a long time to bring him round and then he just sleeps it off. These episodes have got worse as thè years have gone by, he had a circumcision about 8yr ago and kept fainting in hosp after the op. Dr who witnessed it reffered him for more testing saying that in her opinion it was a convulsion/fit he was having. Testing cane back negative of epilepsy, brain scan clear.

Wind forward a couple of years and it happened while he was driving on a motorway with me and dcs in car. If it weren't for thè fact it was late at night and I was quick thinking then I don't think we wouldn't survived it, I had to swerve into the hard shoulder, ring an ambulance, police escort to hosp......anyway dr then reffered him for another brain scan, ECG again, all clear.

A few months back he had a vasectomy, cue a phone call from the clinic saying that they hadn't been aware of DH's history of epilepsy but they were admitting him to hospital as hed had a really violent siezure at thè end of his procedure.

Doctors say they have done every test possible, and that they can only diagnose him as having (sp) vagovasil syncope which from what I understand is basically fainting episodes. They had him on the tilt table and said that he is one of the rate few egos blood sugar, heart rate AND bp drop when he's "fainting" which is why it takes so long to come round.

Why then have my dc and I just witnessed the most horrific of convulsions from him? My screams woke the children up sad it happened after he vomited (we have all had a bit of a tummy bug) rapid eye flapping,violent shaking, holding of breath then coming round with an almighty groan. How can that be a faint? How can medics who've witnessed this and said it looks like epilepsy be wrong? I feel like one day he just isn't going to survive one of these attacks. They are so terrifying for my children to witness. I don't mean to play epilepsy down but at least if it was that there'd be some medication, something to treat it with.

Please advice on what I do now, is there anything I can do, do I push for more testing or just accept that this is going to have to be put up with?

ash6605 Sat 01-Dec-12 01:23:36

Sorry-meant "he's one of the rare few who's blood sugar, heart rate etc....."

DudeInaTutu Sat 01-Dec-12 01:27:31

definitely push for more testing!

he needs to go to the gp and not take no for an answer - if its been witnessed by medics who say it looked like epilepsy then i would be pursuing a diagnosis and treatment.

go with him if needs be. but get back to a gp and demand tests.

ash6605 Sat 01-Dec-12 02:32:27

Thank you. It's just happened again, not as bad this time but that's twice in an hour nowsad next time I'm ringing an ambulance, I've had to leave him in a heap on thè floor this time as I can't move him.

ladyWordy Sat 01-Dec-12 02:36:55

Do call a doctor if you need to, or an ambulance. This isn't ok and you need help/advice now. Don't be afraid to phone, they are great.

- Agree with asking for more tests. It does sound more like a fit than a faint.

Having said that, I heard a doctor say that a faint can manifest itself in three ways: the traditional slump to the floor; completely rigid with eyes open; or shaking all over, similar to a fit.

Still, definitely seek more medical advice. And take care of yourself now, you've had one heck of a shock. brew

One more thing - and you know this, but I have to say it - when things are calm, ask the doctor about fitness to drive.

ladyWordy Sat 01-Dec-12 02:43:40

Get him into the recovery position and dial 999 if he's still out

musicalendorphins Sat 01-Dec-12 02:45:27

You are the second person I have heard of talking about this. The other is a young woman, she is a PT, and was having so many seizures for a while she was admitted to hospital for testing and treatment. She lost her drivers license, but only temporarily. It stopped happening, but she still doesn't know the cause. Sorry I can't offer any ideas. Assumed you have googled this?

Natmu Sat 01-Dec-12 02:47:16

Vasovagal syncope can often look like seizures and if you have it, you are likely to have syncope 'episodes' or 'attacks' when vomiting or straining in some way because it's caused by (amongst other things) pressure on the vagus nerve. I'm ex-paramedic and have seen it lots of times. It looks scary and like a seizure but it is different. Try not to worry but if you need to for peace of mind seek multiple opinions just to def rule out epilepsy.

Natmu Sat 01-Dec-12 02:52:29

Good luck ash. Stay calm if you can. I know it's scary especially when you have dc there too. <Hand holding>.

sashh Sat 01-Dec-12 08:05:51

Poor you.

Has he seen a cardioolgist? Although a vaso vagal attack (which a positive tilt test indicates but not 100%) is caused by the autonomic nervous system it can be 'cured' with a pacemaker.

I put 'cured' in quotes because it doesn't actually cure. In a vaso vagal attack the nervous system that controls the heart and BP tells the heart to go slow and the BP to drop.

This is where a pacemaker comes in. Although the vagus nerve is telling the heart to slow down the pacemaker is giving it a kick to stay at a certain rate, this in turn keeps the blood pressure up.

Now I'm just a stranger on the internet, I am not your doctor, I have not seen your husband's test results. It may be something your husband's doctors have considerd. If they have not itis worth considering.

I hope you get your answers soon

wonkylegs Sat 01-Dec-12 08:06:23

I have VS episodes and it can be extremely scary for those with you. My husband is a hospital consultant and even he finds it scary when I have one. With time however I now know when it's going to happen and what sets it off so I can avoid it or if I can't avoid it to get into a position (already on the floor) where I do myself less damage.

Push for more tests, ask his Drs where he needs to go from here. My husband asks has your DH had a loop recorder or a ECG when he's blacked out as this would rule out certain heart conditions which could cause this.

YouCanBe Sat 01-Dec-12 09:22:16

Have a look at

Ad I think there has been some limited evidence that taking iron can decrease attacks? That might be worth a try.

VisualiseAHorse Sat 01-Dec-12 09:28:46

I have fits/faints similar to this. I have something called Respitory Anouxis- Sydrome (excuse spelling!).

Mine can't be treated with drugs, but don't happen that often, maybe once a year. Happened a lot more when I was about 2-3 years old and again when I was going through puberty. My heart-rate and BP drops wildly, and a good sleep afterwards is always great.

I would get it checked out, really push for more testing. If it is putting his life in danger, you really need to get doctors to listen.

CabbageLeaves Sat 01-Dec-12 09:30:24

Faints can look like fits and vice versa.

Epilepsy cannot be excluded by a normal EEG or a normal MRI.

Diagnosis is normally from a combination of eye witnesses reports & test results. The fact they haven't diagnosed epilepsy suggests to me they have found evidence for another cause.

So they could treat 'epilepsy' but it would still continue because its something else.... Go back to Drs. Whatever it is you deserve to have a treatment plan. If he passes out again today call 999

ash6605 Sat 01-Dec-12 13:17:10

Thanks so much for replies. I'm still in shock tbh, last night was the worst ever attack he's had. It happened again a couple of hours after I first posted. In between that I had ds(2) throwing up everywhere with a funny bug! Just trying to answer some of your questions but on my phone so sorry if I miss any.

Tests he's had so far have been MRI scan, brain scan, ECG, and the dye into his veins to check for blockages. Last test was after the vasectomy incident and that was tilt testing which is when they diagnosed vagocasil syncope. They then discharged him and told him to "avoid triggers" but the triggers so far have been sickness bugs, operations and once during a tattoo(which never got finished off as it was not worth going through another attack for) so clearly to me it's a pain thing which is unavoidable.

Last night his attack was triggered by vomiting but with 3 children it's very difficult to avoid bugs and sickness! DH and I have been together 14yr and this is probably about the 15th time this has happened so average once yearly so not regular but they're getting worse each time.

ash6605 Sat 01-Dec-12 13:18:38

Oh and no he has never been reffered to a cardiogist that I'm aware of.

CabbageLeaves Sat 01-Dec-12 13:31:18

You say ECG.... which is a test on the heart where they place electrodes on the chest. He needs an EEG where small pads are placed into the hair in lots of places.

That looks for unusual electical activity in the brain which occurs in epilepsy. However sometimes it's normal unless he happens to be having an 'event' during the test. Often it shows changes regardless

TigerFeet Sat 01-Dec-12 13:31:52

OP I had to call an ambulance out to dh this morning (diabetic hypo) and because they didn't have to cart him off to hospital we were left some paperwork with some advice on the back. There's a bit about convulsions, if the patient has a fit that is unusual for them you should ring 999. If it happens again I'd do exactly that.

Good luck, I hope they get to the bottom of it, sounds extremely scary.

callow Sat 01-Dec-12 13:38:33

I have had a few vasovagal episodes in my life.

The last was the worst. I felt faint went to sit down and next thing I am lying on the floor. I had a fit and was incontinent. I don't think the fit lasted a long time, but I had bitten my tongue. I was taken to A&E (I was working in a hospital at the time anyway). I had an ECG but nothing was found.

That was in 2009 and I haven't had another since. It was just the embarrassment. Every time I go to that particular ward I think of it.

I hope you find the cause.

careergirl Sat 01-Dec-12 17:47:12

I have epilepsy (my EEG was abnormal)
There could be other causes beyond epilepsy but at a bit of a loss as to what. Has he had a neurological referral?

ash6605 Sat 01-Dec-12 20:21:20

No he hasn't had a neurology referral, from what I remember he was just tested on a general ward, no specialists involved.

MoaningMingeWhimpersAgain Sat 01-Dec-12 20:25:55

I have witnessed a patient having a faint/vasovagal episode where they shook quite a lot. But this sounds quite out of the ordinary, and if he has had a near miss while driving I would certainly push for further investigations. Especially an EEG.

FundusCrispyPancake Sat 01-Dec-12 20:39:51

I faint and have convulsions. People who witness them are convinced it is epilepsy but neurologists say no, it is vaso vagal attack.

Your DH has them more often than me though, and as he faints while driving he should really think about giving up his licence for his own and other's safety.

I hope he gets a proper diagnosis and treatment if he can. Good luck.

CabbageLeaves Sat 01-Dec-12 21:39:24

NICE (National Institute of Clininical Excellence) guidelines say that epilepsy should be investigated by a neurologist soon

That investigations should involve MRI, EEG and eye witness accounts...ECG and bloods.

He should be seen by a neurologist.

ChristmasSpiritEndorphins Sun 09-Dec-12 03:58:52

He needs to see a Neurologist.

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