Everything Goes Black For A Split Second (What Can Cause A Split-Second Blackout?)

What most of us experience is mainly due to a lack of blood supply to our heads. While this may not lead to a risky situation, it’s always healthy to get your body medically examined if you experience recurring blackouts, even for a split second. Other complications like retinal tears would, however, deserve immediate medical assistance. 

When your alcohol intake is over the charts, a blackout could be triggered, which may seem harmless but can progress depending entirely on your self-control ability. The possibility of blackouts resulting in brain damage is quite likely, especially if you’re an alcoholic at a young age. The way you treat blackouts will depend primarily on what caused the blackout, which, either way, you may have to visit your doctor.

A blackout is a short or long period of unconsciousness or a mild lack of awareness in which your vision may also be blurred.

Split-second blackouts are something we all go through occasionally, while longer or more intense blackouts could be hinting at a pre-existing complication in your body.

Blackouts can also be caused by excessive drinking habits, which can dangerously affect you in the long run, as will be shown through this study.

Should you be worried about a split-second blackout? What can be the causes for a sudden short blackout? What is an alcohol-induced blackout, and what do they do to you? Can blackouts cause brain damage? How can you treat a sudden blackout? And at what point should you be worried about your blackout?

Should I be worried about a split-second blackout?

Anybody at some point in their lives might’ve experienced a split-second blackout, where for a brief moment, you’d lose your vision momentarily. You’d barely notice this as, more often than not, you’d recover almost immediately.

Generally, this isn’t something to be too worried about. However, if this is something that keeps recurring and if the blackouts become unusual or longer, it might be time to get proper medical help.

What can cause a split-second blackout?

  1. Low blood pressure – Ever wondered why every time you get up after being seated for so long instantly causes a split-second blackout? Well, this is the most common reason. The logic behind this is that when you abruptly stand up, your blood finds it difficult to travel into your head and so it drops to your lower body. This is medically known as orthostatic hypotension and you will recover pretty soon as your blood shoots back up.
  2. Vascular issues – Complications in your blood vessels also could contribute to blackouts that you experience. When there’s a problem with your vascular functioning, it can interfere with the structural paths within your eye that can impact your vision. A few complications include hemorrhages, mini-strokes, diabetes, and vein occlusion.
  3. Retinal Detachment – This is mainly caused by retinal tears, which once exposed to eye fluids can trigger certain darkness of vision. Due to this your eye might stop functioning properly until you get your eye medically looked into. It won’t go away on its own like low blood pressure would in this case.
  4. Ocular Migraines – These types of migraines are severe headaches that even distort your vision by starting up with sparkle and slowly but painfully expanding outwards. Unlike split-second blackouts, this can last for approximately 15 to 30 minutes after which it’ll recover on its own.
  5. Increased intracranial pressure – This is an uncommon and more dangerous cause for blackouts. If you’ve got some kind of brain injury it could increase the pressure within your skull which leads to this condition. At advanced stages, you will experience momentary vision blackouts and sometimes sadly your vision loss can turn out to be permanent.

Alcoholic blackouts and what it does to you

These kinds of blackouts happen when you drink way too much alcohol and your blood alcohol level rises. A 2006 study by the US National Library of Medicine shows that there’s an exact 50% chance of you experiencing an alcohol-induced blackout when your blood alcohol level has reached a 0.22%.

A girl is resting in bed because of a recent feeling of a blackout but is reaching out to drink from her wine bottle. Drinking alcohol is causing her to have split-second blackouts.

During such blackouts, you can definitely expect difficulties in carrying out simple functions like walking, standing, and even talking. Your vision may also be increasingly impaired the more you engage in drinking.

Each person may be affected in different quantities of alcohol intake since your body alcohol content may vary depending on external factors like weight, type of alcohol consumed, and even the speed at which you drank your alcohol.

The impact of your blackout is of course, going to be heavier if you chugged down your drink in a hurry.

Can blackouts cause brain damage?

The hippocampus located deep within your brain is responsible for your learning development and memory.

Especially when it comes to alcohol-induced blackouts, your hippocampus gets negatively impacted as alcohol can damage and even destroy the cells within your hippocampus.

If you recall dizzy memories of your blackouts after drinking, well now you know what causes this.

If you’re at an adolescent age, this particular damage inflicted on your hippocampus of the brain can permanently affect your brain’s capacity to potentially study and remember new things in the future.

If these ‘blackouts’ keep happening on a routine basis, they definitely can impact your long-term brain function and cause irreversible brain damage.

How can you treat a blackout?

The CauseThe Treatment
Alcohol-induced blackoutsIn severe intoxication, you should provide first aid by laying the person down on their side with their knees bent up to prevent them from choking on their vomit, and call an ambulance.
Low blood pressureA 2010 study reveals fludrocortisone as prescribed by a doctor as helpful in such situations.
EpilepsyThe National Institute of Neurological Disorders recommends medication such as Cenobamate tablets as supervised by doctors. If this doesn’t work, surgery may be needed.
Stress-related blackouts.Cognitive Behavioral Therapy may help in your coping mechanisms to deal with stress.


The way you treat a blackout would, of course, depend on the underlying cause of the blackout itself. This can be better understood through the above table.

When should you see a doctor for your blackouts?

Random blackouts may be a part of a life-threatening condition in certain circumstances, which is why you must seek immediate medical assistance when you’re experiencing a serious symptom, as mentioned below.

  1. Chest pain
  2. Hallucinations, sudden behavior changes caused by confusion
  3. High fever
  4. Body paralysis or any kind of inability to move a part of your body
  5. Shortness of breath, labored breathing, or inability to breathe
  6. Slurred speech or incapability of speaking
  7. Passing out or being unresponsive

Conclusion

Since split-second blackouts are often pretty harmless (unless consistent), it’s the big ones that you should watch out for.

The way you react to a blackout is just as important as understanding the cause of it. It’s essential to remain calm and gently place yourself in a laid-down position to avoid injuring yourself if you lose consciousness.

You can also always try to prevent a blackout by staying hydrated and taking breaks between that extra glass of alcohol you poured for yourself.

It’s equally important to have properly balanced meals to prevent any kind of blackout to make sure your body retains physical strength.

A protein-rich chicken sandwich might just save your day.