POTS, or Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, is a relatively rare, little understood condition that causes elevated heart rates up to 10 minutes after standing from a seated or prone position. Because the heart rate is erratic, the brain does not receive enough oxygen. As a result, people with POTS can find themselves dizzy or lightheaded for a short time after standing.
This condition is most common in younger women, usually under 35, but it can occur in either gender at any age.
What Causes POTS?
There is no concrete evidence of any one cause of POTS, but providers have found several possible triggers for the syndrome. In some cases, POTS is related to pregnancy or bed rest, while in others, it’s triggered by an illness or trauma. Sometimes, there’s no clear cause at all.
What Are the Symptoms of POTS?
Because POTS is hard to diagnose by cause, the condition is usually identified by its symptoms. These symptoms include:
- Anxious feelings
- Blurred vision, dizziness and lightheadedness, and sometimes fainting
- Tachycardia, or a faster, pounding heartbeat, which may increase up to 30 beats per minute, without a marked change in blood pressure
- Throbbing headaches
- Fatigue and difficulty concentrating
All of these symptoms can be, and often are, signs of other diseases and disorders, so it’s important to always have a provider confirm a POTS diagnosis if you experience these symptoms.
If your provider suspects you have POTS, they will place you on a tilt table, which will move you from a prone (lying down) position into an upright position. During that movement, the provider will measure your heart rate, and that will help them confirm the suspected POTS diagnosis.
How Is POTS Treated?
The treatment for POTS depends on a variety of factors and may differ from patient to patient. In most cases, your treatment will include one or more of the following:
- Medication, including beta blockers and alpha agonists.
- Drinking lots of water to stay hydrated and help balance fluids in the body.
- If your provider recommends it, adding salt to your diet, as this helps raise blood pressure. Only do this under the care and direction of a provider, though! Too much salt can be dangerous for other reasons.
- Specialized exercise or physical therapy under the care and guidance of your provider.
- Monitoring symptoms and taking note of triggers so you can avoid them.
Prognosis for POTS Patients
Just like the causes of POTS, the prognosis and long-term outlook for POTS patients varies widely. For those with milder cases, many find that their symptoms disappear on their own over time. Others with more severe cases can experience debilitating long-term effects, and about 25 percent of all patients find that the syndrome impacts their ability to work or study.
If you suspect you may have POTS, and you have experienced symptoms like these when standing up, it’s always best to speak to your provider, confirm the diagnosis and develop a treatment plan sooner rather than later.