Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome – also known as POTS – was once thought to be a rare condition. Today it is estimated that 1 in 600 people have POTS. It’s most common in young women, but people of all ages can have it. It’s called a Syndrome because POTS is diagnosed based on a shared set of symptoms, while its cause often varies from one patient to another.
POTS is usually diagnosed by having a standing pulse which is at least 30 beats per minute higher than a supine (lying down) pulse. However other diagnostic criteria have included measurements in blood pressure, patient history and most famously, syncope (fainting) during a tilt table test.
The term “POTS” was only coined in 1993 so there’s a lack of awareness and understanding about the illness. Many POTS patients go for years without a diagnosis, having their symptoms dismissed as somatic or “all in their head”. Research into POTS is now at an all-time high and in the coming years we hope to achieve more understanding about the causes of POTS and how to manage its symptoms.
Some of the most common POTS symptoms include:
- fainting or near-fainting
- heart palpitations
- shortness of breath
If you or someone you know suspects you have POTS you can start by doing a heart rate measurement. Take your pulse while lying down, and then take it again five minutes after standing. Because POTS sufferers often experience flare-ups, take your pulse on multiple days and at multiple times to get different readings. You can take this information to your Primary Care Physician. They will typically refer you to a specialist for diagnosis, either a POTS specialist, a cardiologist or a neurologist.
Useful Sites about POTS
Potsuk.org is one of the best online resources for potsies. It has a thorough guide for living with POTS, an overview of medication for potsies, and tons of information for both patients and medical professionals.
Dysautonomia International is a non-profit organization that raises money for research along with support and awareness for POTS. They have some information on POTS on their site along with help a guide for finding a POTS doctor. They hold an annual conference on dysautonomia, attracting more than 600 attendees.
Myheart.net has a patient’s guide to POTS including data on patients’ symptoms, diagnosis and treatment.