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During a blood draw...
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During a blood draw...

Recently, I had blood drawn for a doctor to take a look at a few things. The vials were longer than the typical vials a normal person sees. The person who drew the blood took four of them. After the third, I immediately got light headed, and began to sweat, a lot. Then according to the person there drawing the blood, I turned white, very white. I never fully passed out. My whole left arm went numb - to the point where all I could do was keep it turned over, I could pick up that hand, or anything. A few minutes later, I was ok enough to walk back the car, but didn't get my full color back for a couple of hours. I am about 6'2, 260-270. I had a biscuit with peanut butter and a couple of teaspoons off jelly that morning for breakfast. So I'm quite sure this wasn't something like blood sugar. What in the world happened? All the person drawing blood would say is, "don't worry, this happens to men, more than women all the time."
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476634_tn?1207935033
Hi there,
It sounds like what you had a vasovagal reaction, which is pretty common.  It involves an abnormal reflex that causes a temporary decrease in blood flow to the brain, generally brought on by some trigger (eg. having blood drawn).  The following information is provided by the London Cardiac Institute in London, Ontario, Canada, and talks about vasovagal syncope, which is simply when the reaction actually leads to a fainting spell.  The information is still applicable in your situation though:

Vasovagal syncope is not a serious or life threatening condition, but in effect an abnormal reflex. This results in a drop in blood pressure leading to decreased blood flow to the brain resulting in dizziness or fainting. The mechanism of vasovagal syncope is the subject of a great deal of research. It may best be described as the following:

• When we sit or stand, blood settles in the legs and abdomen
• As a result, less blood returns to the heart
• The blood vessels leaving the heart have detectors in them called baroreceptors that detect a decrease in blood pressure
• The baroreceptors send a message to the brain, which in turn sends a signal to the heart to increase the heart rate, and tighten up the blood vessels
• This process occurs constantly in all of us as we adapt to changes in posture
• In vasovagal syncope, an abnormal reflex occurs that results in withdrawal of the message that speeds up the heart and tightens up the vessels, often because of an overshoot in the reflex that compensates for the fall in blood pressure
• The resultant decrease in blood flow to the brain will result in dizziness or lightheadedness if mild, and progress to fainting or loss of consciousness if more severe
• There are several variants of vasovagal syncope that can trigger the same reflex, including situations such as the sight of blood, injury, blood testing (needles), going to the washroom and several others that are quite uncommon.

What are the symptoms?

The symptoms in vasovagal syncope are slightly different for each person, but often include many of the following characteristics:

• Most episodes occur while standing, occasionally sitting and almost never lying down
• Patients often describe feeling very warm and sweaty before blacking out
• Nausea and rarely vomiting can precede episodes
• Observers often describe the patients as pale (“white as a sheet”)
• Patients are usually unresponsive (“out”) for less than a minute
• Patients may have some twitching while unresponsive, but seldom shake violently, bite their tongue or lose control of bowel and bladder function. The latter are more suggestive of a primary seizure.
• After regaining consciousness, patients are usually immediately aware of their surroundings, who and where they are
• After an episode, patients often feel somewhat dizzy and report feeling tired for as much as 24 hours
• Patients that learn to recognize the warning signs can avert losing consciousness by sitting or lying down promptly.


If you continue to have there symptoms in situations other than having your blood drawn, please consult your doctor for more thorough evaluation.

Good luck,
JMK MD
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