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Home >> Tippy the Fainting Squirrel

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

December 6, 2013
Contact:
Lauren Stiles, Esq
President, Dysautonomia International
lstiles@dysautonomiainternational.org

Fainting Experts Weigh In On Tippy the Fainting Squirrel's Diagnosis



EAST MORICHES, N.Y., (December 6, 2013) - With the recent popularity of the "Tippy the Fainting Squirrel" video on YouTube, many people have speculated as to the cause of Tippy's mysterious behavior. Dysautonomia International is happy to provide some insight. Our Medical Advisory Board includes some of the world's leading researchers on fainting disorders. Fainting (also known as syncope) is a form of dysautonomia.

One of the most commonly suggested diagnoses for Tippy is that he is fainting as a result of orthostatic hypotension. Orthostatic hypotension happens when the body cannot maintain proper blood pressure when a person (or in this case a squirrel) goes from a sitting to standing position. The drop in blood pressure causes reduced blood flow to the brain, which if severe enough, causes a faint. Orthostatic hypotension can be caused by many different diseases that impact the autonomic nervous system, which is the part of the nervous system responsible for regulating blood pressure. Some causes of orthostatic hypotension include neuropathies, diabetes mellitus, Sjogren's Syndrome, and Parkinson's Disease.

Orthostatic hypotension can be diagnosed by performing a tilt table test. To our knowledge, no one has "tilt-tested" Tippy, but this isn't necessary as the fainting experts from Dysautonomia International are quite certain that Tippy does not have orthostatic hypotension.

Dr. Satish R. Raj, Associate Professor in Medicine and Pharmacology at Vanderbilt University's Autonomic Dysfunction Center in Nashville, TN and a member of Dysautonomia International's Medical Advisory Board, notes, "Tippy's body and legs remain rigid and frozen in place when he falls over. A person, or in this case a squirrel, fainting due to orthostatic hypotension is unlikely to maintain a rigid body posture. They body usually becomes limp just before the faint."

Since Tippy is eating in the video, many people have suggested that Tippy is experiencing swallowing syncope, also known as "deglutition syncope." Swallowing syncope is one of the many unusual forms of reflex syncope, and it is also considered a form of dysautonomia. Dysautonomia International's experts are ruling that one out for Tippy too.

Neurologist Dr. Svetlana Blitshteyn, Clinical Assistant Professor at the University at Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, Director of the Dysautonomia Clinicm and a member of the Dysautonomia International Medical Advisory Board, explains, "Tippy's behavior is suggestive of drop attacks. In humans, drop attacks could be due to seizures, syncope or cataplexy. Tippy doesn't appear to be experiencing any form of syncope, also known as fainting, because he maintains a rigid body posture as he falls down, and because he tends to fall to the right each time."

Lauren Stiles, President of Dysautonomia International, suffers from another form of dysautonomia that sometimes causes fainting, Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), a diagnosis that some have suggested for Tippy. According to Mayo Clinic's Chair of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine, Dr. Philip Fisher, POTS impacts approximately 1 out of 100 teenagers in the US. Including adult patients, there are an estimated 500,000 - 1,000,000 Americans living with POTS. Stiles says, "[w]e're not sure what Tippy has, but it doesn't seem to be a fainting due to orthostatic hypotension, syncope, or POTS. We wish Tippy the best, and suggest that he find himself a good veterinary neurologist if he is as curious about his diagnosis as the rest of us are."

On a more serious note, Dysautonomia International is working with researchers like Dr. Raj and Dr. Blitshteyn to find better treatments for POTS, syncope, orthostatic hypotension and other forms of dysautonomia in humans. Over 1,000,000 Americans live with a form of dysautonomia. For more information or to see how you can help, please visit www.dysautonomiainternational.org or follow us on Twitter at @Dysautonomia.

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