What is Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome?
Most people we encounter have no clue what POTS is, and sadly this still includes a fair share of medical professionals. For those of you who are unfamiliar, POTS stands for Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome. We will get into the numerous details of the many ups and downs that come along with this illness, but for right now, we want to share a short and simple overview of what POTS is.
To put it simply, POTS (a form of dysautonomia) is a type of orthostatic intolerance that causes tachycardia upon standing. This happens because too little blood returns to the heart after moving from a lying down to a standing up position. Although not always, it is also common for POTS patients to have very low blood pressure that falls even lower when standing. As a result, many of the symptoms dissipate when you lay down flat, and let your heart rate and blood pressure return to normal, but as you can imagine, it can be quite hard to go about your life with that restricting stipulation. Only since 1993 have doctors actually been able to label POTS. Prior to that, it was often thought to be some sort of anxiety disorder and unfortunately, it is still often incorrectly misdiagnosed as such.
The most common symptoms we deal with (besides the low blood pressure and fast heart rate) are dizziness, fainting, chest pain, malaise, headaches, fatigue, high adrenaline, trouble concentrating, and nausea.
We were both diagnosed at different times in our life (stories to come) but the major overlapping symptom for both of us is that we just couldn’t really get up and move around without feeling like we were going to pass out. As you can imagine, we spent a lot of time laying down to feel somewhat normal, and to get the majority of the symptoms to fade (it was pretty frustrating, to put it lightly).
POTS is basically a malfunctioning of one’s autonomic nervous system (the system that controls everything your body does without you thinking about it i.e. sweating, digestion, blood pressure, heart rate etc.) So, when you have POTS, it is very normal fort these other areas to malfunction too. For example, over 50% of people with POTS have problems with digestion.
For as unfamiliar as POTS is, it’s actually not that rare. It is estimated to impact between 1,000,000-3,000,000 Americans as well as many more around the world. Although the cause is still unknown, the disease is often brought on by a major stress in life such as a trauma, surgery, or pregnancy. The good thing is, as awareness increases, more treatments and beneficial practices are being discovered.