Need tips for recovery from needle procedures


Hi, all.
Firstly, to be clear, I don’t live with any form of diabetes that I’m aware of, and was checked in the last year.
However, I was recommended to ask this question here and I’m sure some of you probably suffer from the same condition as me; vasovagal attacks and syncope. This occurs whenever I have any procedure involving needles or a sharp item pierces my skin in the way a needle would, such as a staple. I don’t suffer from attacks when accidental cuts happen and this is not exclusively an anxious reaction to seeing or feeling a needle break my skin.
When an attack happens, I feel very dizzy, sometimes slur my speech and will faint within a few minutes, and I can feel it coming so I always warn the doctor or nurse before beginning and also when I start to feel lightheaded. It means that I can’t have any local anaesthetic such as for dental work because the recovery time required means the anaesthetic has worn off. I’ve only recently been diagnosed (aged 36) but it makes sense that I’ve suffered from this for my whole life, as injections as a child and accidents with staples had the same result.
I had blood taken today (2 vials) and now make sure to have this done laying down and with my legs raised at least 30 degrees to keep the blood up my body. I still feel faint even when taking these steps and today needed around 45 minutes to fully recover to a point where I could stand without feeling dizzy and needing to lay down again. I also fell asleep for two hours when I got home shortly afterwards as needle procedures take so much out of me. My tests are usually fasting as they insist on checking glucose levels.
My resting, sitting BP is 118/77. I suffer from postural pressure drop and BP moves to around 108/71 when standing.
I wonder if any of you can recommend effective ways for me to recover after a minor procedure that doesn’t include simply overloading my system with a sugary drink, something I’m sure many of you would not be in favour of.
Thank you.


That’s a hard question. In the past I feared needles too. I often felt lightheaded after drawing blood and I had to sit or lay down sometimes to prevent fainting, but luckily I never fainted. Back then EMLA cream on the puncture site worked for me, but if it’s not a reaction to pain caused by the needle, as you say, then that may not work for you.
My fear of injection needles (I still hate venipuncture, but don’t get lightheaded anymore) was cured immediately when I was diagnosed with diabetes. So I’m afraid that I don’t know an effective way to solve this problem.


You’ve answered the OP’s question. It’s called graded exposure or distress tolerance. Short of getting a bunch of alcohol wipes, a few vials of normal saline, and a bunch of insulin syringes, and injecting tiny amounts of normal saline subcutaneously in increasing frequency, I’d look into hypnosis. This is my opinion, and not my medical advice.


Thanks for the replies.
I don’t fear the needles, it’s not fear, I’m OK to talk and think about it before it happens, and the reaction is physical rather than mental as my blood pressure dips dramatically.
I just remembered that it also happened when I tried acupuncture, so it’s not the in or out flow that does it, it’s the act of puncturing the skin.
I’m definitely not looking to start injecting myself in my spare time just to test my tolerance to skin punctures. That would be very dangerous. The last time I fully blacked out before investigation and discovery of the condition, I was told that I passed out for 10 minutes and had a mild seizure because of it. Luckily, that was during another procedure in a hospital, so I was immediately looked after.
I’m not so much looking for ways to prevent it happening, as I’ve accepted that it will, I’m more interested in ways to boost my recovery afterwards so that I don’t have to wait for 45 minutes and then sleep for two hours because the whole process takes so much out of me.


If what you experienced was a true seizure, I’d get an EEG performed ASAP (if you haven’t already). “Recovery” from vasovagal syncope doesn’t take that long (45 minutes plus two hours of sleep). Have you had a cardiac workup to rule out more serious pathology?


I’m in the middle of further investigation at the moment and have private healthcare so will be referred once the GP sees my results. EEG was suggested the time I stayed in at the hospital but they didn’t think it was needed at the time. I may well suggest it this time.
I don’t think it was a true seizure, this section from wikipedia on vasovagal response mirrors what they told me at the time: “If the person does not fall into a fully flat, supine position, and the head remains elevated above the trunk, a state similar to a seizure may result from the blood’s inability to return quickly to the brain, and the neurons in the body will fire off and generally cause muscles to twitch very slightly but mostly remain very tense.”


I experienced seizures as a kid (and once possibly as an adult), the long recovery time sounds a lot like a seizure to me. Seizures can be triggered by physical stimuli, the best-known one being flashing lights, but there are others that can also trigger them. If it is seizures, there’s medication that can help prevent them if they’re happening often. I agree with @rgcainmd, people that just pass out from needles don’t need a very long recovery time. Several times I’ve felt sick and lightheaded when blood draws or IVs have gone wrong, and once or twice I was very close to passing out (vision went black and ears rang), but lying down always prevented me from passing out and within about five minutes I’d feel fine again.


OK, thanks all for the input, I’ll push the recovery problem harder with the GP and try to get a referral with that in mind, too.


I have to say, the mental and physical response to having a needle inserted into your body is a natural response. If you are severely injured your body will drop your blood pressure as a way of keeping you from bleeding out. But a needle is not a major wound and for most people, they become accustomed to a needle puncture and it is no longer a problem. I would certainly encourage you follow up with your doctor to see if there is something medically wrong, but it may just be that you have not been exposed to it enough to have suppressed the symptoms. There are medical conditions such as diabetes, hypoglycemia, anxiety, irregular heartbeat, panic disorders, heart blockages and dehydration which can cause this.

But if you conclude that it isn’t anything medically wrong you might consider something called “exposure therapy” which exposes you to the stimulus (a needle puncture) and then after repeated contact, your body will conclude that a needle is actually not going to harm you and the exaggerated response will be suppressed.