By E.J. Mundell
NEW YORK, Jun 24 (Reuters Health) -- It's not exactly 'the pause that refreshes' -- according to a new report, drinking cold, carbonated beverages can trigger fainting spells caused by a condition known as 'deglutition syncope.'
"It could be caused by any soft drink," explained Dr. Brian Olshansky of Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Illinois. His report on one man's history of soda-related fainting spells is published in the June 24th issue of The New England Journal of Medicine.
According to Olshansky, the patient, a 72-year-old lawyer, experienced recurrent bouts of sudden dizziness, confusion, and fainting after consuming cold soft drinks. In one such incident, the man wrecked his car while driving and enjoying his favorite cola.
After consulting with several other physicians -- all of whom failed to diagnose the condition -- the man was referred to Olshansky, who identified the problem as deglutition syncope.
In an interview with Reuters Health, Olshansky explained that the esophagus can become stretched or twisted with age. At the same time, he said, nerves lining the esophagus can become hypersensitive to various stimuli.
"It seems that carbonation and ice-cold beverages...'tickle' the nerves," Olshansky explained. This stimulus can, in rare cases, trigger slowdowns in heart rate accompanied by a quick drop in blood pressure, culminating in dizziness or fainting.
Olshansky's treatment was simple -- he told the man to simply avoid drinking cold fizzy beverages. The result? "He's back to driving, (and) he's not passing out anymore," according to the Illinois physician. "He's aware of what triggers this and he avoids the trigger."
Olshansky remains concerned, however, that a number of doctors missed the diagnosis. "All it really required was someone taking down a history," he said. "Any doctor who would have paid attention would have picked it up."
SOURCE: The New England Journal of Medicine 1999;340:2006.