Migraines and Fainting Spells

Updated on January 31, 2012
M.B. asks from San Francisco, CA
8 answers

Have you dealt with this, too?

I have suffered from migraines for somewhere near 20 years (I am 28) next month and while lack of caffeine is now a trigger the headaches started long before I was drinking coffee. I have had 3 fainting spells in 10 years-when I was 17, 19 and again, yesterday. I currently take 40mg of Relpax as needed when a headache is coming on. With each fainting spell my ears start ringing, my vision goes gray from the outside in until I can't see anymore and then I black out. The first time I was able to stay conscious but collapsed and the next two times I completely passed out. I've never hit my head (no trauma) and regain consciousness within minutes.With two out of the three episodes I went to the ER and every test and exam came back normal. The doctors have called them migraine seizures and syncope. Has anyone else had something like this happen? Are the headaches tied to the fainting? I have never had a migraine precede one of the fainting spells but I certainly have one after. Doc's have said it is the onset of the migraine and because it causes it drop in blood pressure anyway sometimes it is severe enough to cause me to pass out.

I am following up with my primary care doctor next week and am wondering what questions I should ask or what treatment I could explore. I get one massive migraine a month with no real rhyme or reason to it, we've already run the track on causes and there really is none-I just get them. I have at least 1, maybe 1 1/2 cups of coffee a day and at least 8 glasses of water so I am plenty hydrated. I am not a huge fan of taking a daily medicine 'in case something happens' because the fainting spells are so infrequent and the current medication does provide great relief for the headaches when I get them.

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So What Happened?

Hi all-I should have included that I live in San Francisco so I don't drive, I use the bus and subway. Not because of these episodes but that's an added bonus since my most recent fainting spell happened on the train yesterday. Every time this has happened I have had an MRI and EKG plus blood work that shows nothing but normal results. I get headaches at all times of the month, nothing that shows direct correlation to my period and I've been on and off birth control with no relief in symptoms.

More Answers


answers from Austin on

You need to skip your primary doctor and see a Neurologist.. This is their business. They work with the brain.

I have chronic migraines.. at least 3 a week, but I am on medication to help me control them and live a normal life.. Yes, the Caffeine can help, but it is no solution..

What you describe could be something else. The continuation of this can eventually lead to some permanent damage to different parts of your body.

I for example have some damage to one of my arms..
Go As soon as possible.. and follow through on all of their tests.
I am sending you clarity and strength.

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answers from San Francisco on

I agree that you should see a neurologist. There are excellent migraine docs in SF. It sounds as if you have migraine with aura. Re: caffeine and migraines - it's a double edged sword. Caffeine will get rid of a migraine but over time you will get rebound headaches. But these headaches should be different from your regular migraines. A good website to learn more about migraines is the National Headache Foundation (headache.org). I've had migraines for 30 years and I've noticed that my headaches have changed over the years. So don't expect them to stay the same. My headaches are now linked to my period - they used to be pretty random. I control my migraines with sumatriptan - I've been using it since 1994. It's a great drug (for me). I used Relpax briefly and stopped because for me I felt very spacy as a side-effect. Sumatriptan let's me function normally and doesn't have side effects. But, you need to see a neurologist asap.

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answers from Washington DC on


If you are having seizures, you should not be driving. You are putting yourself and others at risk.

Go to a neurologist and get to the bottom of this. I'm truly sorry that you are going through this. Migraines are not fun and fainting is scary. You are lucky that it's only happened a few times.

I would hope that a doctor has ruled out things like MS or Epilepsy. My girlfriend who has epilepsy gets headaches before she has a seizure. So please get yourself checked out. An MRI, CAT Scan - something to start ruling stuff out and getting you on the path to good health! (no migraines!!)

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answers from Washington DC on

I agree with the poster who said to get checked for MS. And get an MRI -- I am very surprised if no doctor has ever ordered an MRI on you just as a general check, considering your history; you said they did "every test and exam" so was that included then? I still would insist on another one.

You mention caffeine -- does the doctor agree that you need it to avoid migraines? In some people (like a friend of mine) they actually trigger it. But many headache medicines actually contain caffeine so the doctor is the best source for answering that one.

If you get "one massive migraine a month" isn't it possible or likely that it is tied to your monthly cycle? It does not have to happen during your period to be tied to your hormonal cycle for the month. I would definitely ask for further testing to see if that is the case -- And if thay say tests can't prove it definitively, I would still think that the hormonal cycle could very likely be behind a migrane that comes with that kind of regularity. Ask your ob/gyn too -- I bet he or she might have seen monthly migraines in other patients as the result of the hormonal cycle.

I haven't been through this myself but my good friend has (minus the fainting) and her migraines actually lessened tremendously once she was past a period of lengthy, intense stress in her life (divorce). It sounds like yours is not as directly stress-related. But it also sounds like time for a more thorough work-up. If you had tests years ago, insist on having them again; as you get older, your body changes, and your triggers and cycle may be changing too. I find the fainting particularly worrying because as you note, you could strike your head, fall down stairs, etc. And if you have younger kids, you could faint when out with them somewhere, leaving them confused and without your being able to talk to them.

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answers from Miami on

Have you had a spinal tap during those ER visits? Have you looked to see a neurologist? Is there any other symptoms you have other than the headaches? I don't have much knowledge but I'm very into my body. And if I sense something wrong I go to the extreme to get it checked out. I would request a visit to the top neurologist and an MRI followed by a spinal tap. You need to rule out Multiple Sclerosis. It runs in my stepdads family and each case has been different between the 5 sisters who have it. You also need to rule out any type of blood clots that could be producing this. Also if you're drinking Crystal Light stop immediately. Its the number one onset of migraines for those who already suffer from them. Spicy foods any substituted sweetners other than sugar itself, even orange juice has set mine off. I have a cyst on my brain that ruptures and I can tell its when I'm in the most pain. I haven't had it in like 2 years so that's good news for me.

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answers from Sacramento on

So sorry you are going through this. I used to get migraines too (though never as bad as yours!) and it is not fun. Have you ever considered food intolerances or chemical sensitivities? The latest research really supports those possibilities. Most doctors will automatically say that food allergies or intolerances (the two are very different) are not the problem but it is interesting to me that they are NOT able to tell you what the problem IS! This is so common and it is why so many people are now doing their own research to relieve their symptoms. I am not a doctor but I consulted a nutritionist who told me to go ff gluten and dairy and the difference in my health was amazing! You may want to consult one!!!

MSG is a common cause of migraines and is in so many foods and especially in gum. You may want to try staying away from it. Some people are sensitive to cleaning products and get really bad migraines and even seizures from them.

Food intolerances can cause inflammation of the intestines which causes problems with absorbing nutirients. This causes an array of symptoms including migraines. Low magnesium is often a cause so that might be a good thing to get checked:

Celiac disease or the less severe "gluten intolerance" is a very common cause of migraines. Gluten is found in wheat, rye, barley and can be in oats. (Other foods such as dairy can cause migraines too.) Just go on line and search "gluten celiac migraine" and the information will be endless. Do all the reading you can! You can also search "gluten intolerance symptoms to see if you are having any of the other problems related to this condition. The list is huge! It is very common and many doctors just don't get it yet. Symptoms can include but are not limited to anemia (low iron or low B12), dizziness, fatigue, bone and joint pain/aches, stomach aches, nausea, mental fuzziness/difficulty concentrating, skin rashes or itching, shortness of breath, blood pressure issues, blood sugar problems, fainting, mood swings, chronic yeast infections, thyroid problems, weak fingernails... It goes on and on! Celiac disease and gluten intolernace have been linked to many cancers like lymphoma and to autoimmune diseases such as lupus, MS, and diabetes. The condition tends to run in families.

Here are some articles that might help you:



(this whole website is great--click around and check it out!):




I really hope you will look into this! I've seen a dietary changes help lots of people who are suffering from migraines. I'm in a rush today and sort of threw this together but If you need any more info, feel free to email me at [email protected]____.com care,



answers from San Francisco on

Have you checked out a chiropractor in your area? We deal in all sorts of abstract ailments, especially those with "no rhyme or reasons ". Usually its some sort of blockage in the nervous system caused by misalignment of the skeletal system, which can in turn cause misfiring of the nerves resulting in pain and discomfort. Many people don't realize we work on everything from headaches to toe aches :) please let me know if i can help you find a chiropractor in your area. Best of all we treat the issue without drugs! Best of luck to you!



answers from San Francisco on

I struggled with migrianes for 13 years- started at 13 years old. Mine were much more frequent tho. After I had a baby I started switching to green products- lotions, cleaners, etc. And guess what?! My headaches were gone! Turns out I had chemical sensitivity and I had suffered for so long. I saw TONS of doctors, medical and natural and not one of them ever brought that up as a possibility. You might want to try that to just see. Good Luck!

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