Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) Causes and Symptoms
People with POTS often feel exhausted, have low energy levels, and are not able to live a normal life. The acronym POTS stands for postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome. But what does it really mean?
When a person suddenly changes in position, particularly from lying down to standing up, the heart beats way too fast. Tachycardia is the medical term for an abnormally fast heartbeat. This syndrome is characterized by a group of symptoms, such as headache, fatigue, fainting spells, dizziness, and upset stomach, which usually get people to feel sick and rundown.
Read on to learn more about POTS and how compression wear can help people improve their symptoms.
What is POTS?
Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) is also known as chronic orthostatic intolerance or postural tachycardia syndrome. POTS is a term used when referring to neurological disorders that fall under dysautonomia, which is a disorder that affects the normal function of the autonomic nervous system.
The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is in charge of certain body processes, such as your heart rate, breathing, and digestion. This is the reason why individuals with POTS commonly experience symptoms like dizziness, heart palpitations, and fatigue when getting up from a seated position.
Signs and Symptoms of POTS
The symptoms of POTS are often experienced due to poor circulation. Most people with POTS have blood that remains in the lower areas of their body when they stand up from a seated position. When this happens, not enough blood reaches their brain, causing them to feel dizzy along with a sudden increase in their heart rate and a drop in their blood pressure.
Aside from fatigue, dizziness, and fast heart rate, other uncomfortable symptoms may also be experienced by people with POTS. Its signs and symptoms may include (1):
- Chest pain
- Abnormal blood pressure levels (high or low)
- Abdominal pain or discomfort
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Blurry vision
- Neck pain
- Brain fog
- Flu-like body aches
- Fluctuating body temperature
- Sleep problems
Although not all people with POTS have all of these symptoms, most patients usually experience 2-3 additional symptoms other than the commonly experienced POTS symptoms.
Although the causes of POTS remain unclear, experts have observed that the syndrome develops after major surgery or certain illnesses, including life events such as pregnancy (2). Instead of bouncing back from the stress caused by sickness, it creates an imbalance in people’s autonomic nervous system, making them unusually tired along with experiencing other symptoms.
Other medical conditions also seem to make people more susceptible to developing POTS. These conditions may include:
- Lupus, Sjogren’s syndrome, and other autoimmune diseases
- Multiple sclerosis
- Lyme disease
- Infectious mononucleosis (mono)
- Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)
- Prediabetes or Diabetes
Who are at risk of POTS?
Anybody can be affected by POTS. However, POTS is often observed in adults, particularly women between the ages 30-50 years old and teenagers at the onset of puberty (3).
Although boys and men can also develop POTS, up to 80 percent of people affected by the syndrome are females (2). A high female to male POTS ratio of 5:1 is seen, especially after experiencing fever, sepsis, trauma, surgery, and pregnancy (4).
Diagnostic tests for POTS include an active stand test, in which your blood pressure level and heart rate are recorded after changing positions from sitting, lying down, and right away after standing. Any symptoms you may experience will be noted within 10 minutes.
A tilt table test may also be recommended by your doctor. This test involves being strapped to a table at specific positions or angles while your heart rate and blood pressure are monitored and recorded (5).