Constantly experiencing a momentary loss of consciousness is not a pleasant experience. Especially when the individual is performing normal everyday tasks, like standing. Unfortunately, these disruptions can make it difficult to execute work tasks and retain employment. Those with neurocardiogenic syncope, or vasovagal syncope, may experience this on a daily basis. To help ease the financial burden of unemployment, the Social Security Administration (SSA) considers those with syncopes to be eligible to apply for disability benefits based on their symptoms. However, that can be a challenge for some people as neither neurocardiogenic syncope nor vasovagal syncope are actually listed in the SSA’s Blue Book. Therefore, applicants must be able to prove that their symptoms are severe enough to qualify for the benefits.
What is neurocardiogenic syncope or vasovagal syncope?
Neurocardiogenic syncope, also known as vasovagal syncope, is a condition that causes individuals to faint due to certain triggers like intense pain, emotional stress, standing for an extended amount of time, dehydration, overheating, or witnessing something unsightly like the sight of blood. There may be other triggers that cause the fainting, but the episode is typically brought on by something that causes a sudden drop to someone’s heart rate and blood pressure. This results in a lack of blood flow to the brain, which leads the person to faint. Once the person falls or lies down, the blood circulation resumes. However, the impact of the fall may cause damage to other parts of the body.
There really isn’t a specific cause of syncope episodes. It’s not related to an underlying cause like a heart condition or other medical condition. Instead, syncopal episodes are triggered by certain factors. These could include:
- The sight of blood
- Fear or some other intense emotion
- Extreme pain
- Standing for too long
- Excess heat
- Too much physical exertion
- Skipping a meal
There may be other causes of syncope, but they will always be set off by a drop in the person’s heart rate and blood pressure.
Symptoms of neurocardiogenic syncope
While fainting episodes are the main symptom those with this condition experience, individuals may experience other symptoms including:
- Blurred vision
- Pale skin
The symptoms above may be an indication that the person is about to faint. Those around individuals with this condition may notice the color drain from their face before they faint. Some individuals may even have dilated pupils before they faint. Once individuals with this condition come to, they may feel exhausted, confused, and still nauseated. Depending on the impact of the fall, they may even have concussions or broken bones.
There are a series of tests that doctors can perform to diagnose vasovagal syncope. Doctors may start with a basic examination that will include taking the individual’s blood pressure while they’re standing, sitting, and lying down. From there, individuals may be referred to a cardiologist who will perform an ECG or EKG. They’ll want to rule out arrhythmia, heart disease, or any other heart condition. Doctors may want to perform a series of additional tests depending on the results. These may include:
- A tilt table test: This test is performed to trigger episodes of syncope while the patient is in various positions. Doctors will monitor the patients heart rate and blood pressure throughout the test.
- A stress test: There are two methods for executing this test. The first method is through exercise. Patients will be connected to a treadmill that is controlled by the doctor. The doctor will ask the patient to walk, jog, and then run if the patient can exert that much energy before fainting. The second method is by inducing the stress with medicine. This method is mainly used on those who aren’t able to perform that exercise task.
- Holter monitor: This method allows doctors to monitor the patient’s heart over the course of 24-48 hours to see if an episode occurs. If an episode doesn’t occur within that timeframe, doctors may then insert a portable heart monitor that will allow doctors to monitor the patient’s heart 24/7.
It’s extremely important that doctors and cardiologists have detailed medical records of the diagnosis.
Treatment for neurocardiogenic syncope
Unfortunately, there isn’t a specific treatment for this condition. Treatment is mainly centered around preventing the fainting. The first option doctors will explore is medication. Medical treatment will focus on raising the individual’s blood pressure or regulating their nervous system response. Other suggestions to prevent fainting may include dietary changes. Since one of the triggers include skipping meals, doctors may suggest that patients increase the amount of meals they eat in a day. One important measure individuals can take is to recognize their symptoms. If they’re able to recognize the signs before they faint, they may be able to either prevent the episode or move to a safe place before fainting. Some suggestions include laying down when signs of fainting arise or sitting down and placing their head between their knees. While these aren’t treatments, they may help prevent the fainting and the harm that could come with fainting.
Getting Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) for neurocardiogenic syncope
While this condition isn’t specifically listed in the SSA’s Blue Book, it does consider fainting to be a symptom that qualifies individuals to receiving benefits. However, applicants must prove that this symptom is so severe that it affects their ability to find and keep employment. When individuals submit the application for Social Security disability benefits, they must also submit their medical records. Their records must show the diagnosis and detailed notes about the symptoms. The applicant must also be able to prove that the fainting is affecting their ability to retain employment. The SSA may even suggest that the applicant try to seek employment with a role that is less demanding than the one they had before. For example, if their previous job required that they stand for a long time and they were fainting, the SSA may require that the applicant apply for a job that allows them to sit. If the applicant still experiences the symptoms, they may then receive the benefits.
How we can help
The application process for disability benefits can be emotionally taxing. The SSA puts applicants through an extensive process to ensure that they can prove their need for benefits. Since intense emotions, such as stress, can trigger a syncope episode, we encourage those with this condition to seek the help of an experience disability attorney. Our disability lawyers at Osterhout Berger Disability Law firm are experienced with this process and can walk individuals through every step. We’d be happy to take on some of the burden of this process. Schedule a free consultation today!