POTS Syndrome – What Is It?

POTS Syndrome, also referred to as POTS or Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, is a type of dysautonomia characterized by dizziness and a heart rate increase of more than 30 bpm upon standing. POTS Syndrome can be easy to miss, but if not properly diagnosed, patients can continue to suffer with many seemingly unrelated symptoms.

Chronic fatigue
Dizziness
Fainting
Constipation/gastroparesis
Fast heart rate
Mood disorders
Brain fog
Shortness of breath
Nausea
Headaches
Tremors
Body pain
Sensitivity to light and sound
Heat/cold intolerance
Flushing

POTS Syndrome is a form of dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system that can be completely disabling and yet patients can suffer for years before being properly diagnosed. Even worse, patients may be labeled as hypochondriacs, anxiety patients, or told their illness is all in their heads.

Many people with POTS are given diagnoses such as ME/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, presumed Chronic Lyme Disease, Fibromyalgia, depression, Idiopathic gastroparesis, and Joint Hypermobility Syndrome (or Ehlers-Danlos syndrome).
How can you spot POTS Syndrome?

Stand up!

When standing very still, patients with POTS experience a rapid heart rate. This may take as long as ten minutes but as the blood pools in the lower extremities, patients usually begin to feel dizzy, shaky, nauseous, or faint and their heart rate increases. This informal diagnostic test is called a “Poor Man’s Tilt Table Test”.

The gold standard for official diagnosis of POTS involves a (real) Tilt Table Test, but a “Poor Man’s Tilt Table test” can help confirm suspicions of POTS Syndrome.

Once the diagnosis is made, the search for the underlying medical causes of POTS can begin. The earlier the underlying cause is discovered, the more likely it is that a patient may fully treat their symptoms and significantly improve quality of life. Underlying causes may be related to (but not limited to) immune issues, inflammatory conditions, and endocrine problems.

Living with POTS can be very disabling on a daily basis and so it’s important for patients to seek treatment as soon as possible. With POTS’ drain on energy, simple tasks can become difficult. Patients may experience brain fog/difficulty concentrating, difficulty standing or walking, eating, and going to the bathroom. Because these such basic behaviors are challenging and integral to one’s well being, a POTS patient should do his/her best to find an individualized treatment plan. POTS symptoms and treatments may be different from patient to patient and so persistence is key in finding a lasting solution. Learning how to treat POTS can improve your life.