What does POTS stand for?
Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome.
What is Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome?
POTS is a form of dysautonomia, which is a dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system controls automatic functions in your body that you don’t consciously have to think about like heartbeat, breathing, digestion, etc. People with POTS experience symptoms when upright due to an increase in heart rate of 30+ beats per minute (40+ bpm for children and adolescents) or over 120bpm upon standing. Symptoms include fatigue, shortness of breath, dizziness, lightheadedness, nausea, blurred vision, and fainting, to name a few. Since POTS is a form of dysautonomia and your autonomic nervous system controls a lot of things, symptoms can be very diverse.
Does POTS have a cure?
No. However, there are lifestyle modifications and medications that people can use that may reduce symptoms.
What should I do if I think I have POTS?
Test yourself! If you have a watch with a heart rate monitor, you can test yourself quite easily with a stand test. Just lie down and wait to see what your resting heart rate is and then stand up. If your heart rate increases 30+ beats per minute (40+ bpm for children and adolescents) or over 120bpm and you have symptoms, then you probably have POTS. You can go to your GP, but they will probably send you to a cardiologist to proceed with treatment. So, if your insurance does not require a referral, I would just skip the middle man and head to the cardiologist.
If you need help finding a cardiologist who knows about POTS, I recommend checking out POTS Facebook groups (just search for POTS groups on FB and you should be able to find some) or asking people on Instagram for recommendations (you can search #POTS or #PosturalOrthostaticTachycardiaSyndrome to find accounts). You can also call and ask cardiologist offices if they treat POTS, however sometimes the receptionists don’t know this sort of information.
Once you go to the cardiologist, they might want to do further tests to rule out other conditions. But usually you can start treatment in the meantime. The most common start in treatment protocol are compression socks and increasing fluid and sodium intake to 2-3L and 3,000-10,000mg per day, respectively. There’s also recumbent exercise and raising the head of your bed. If those don’t work/don’t work well enough, there are medications like Fludrocortisone, Midodrine, and Beta Blockers that you can try, although these don’t always work for some patients.
I recommend heading over to Dysautonomia International to get a more in-depth look about POTS.