Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, or POTS, is a condition that causes a fast heart rate when you stand up. With POTS, when you go from sitting to standing, your body cannot regulate its blood pressure or heart rate properly. It can take several minutes for your body to adjust to standing up, and your blood can pool in your legs without returning to your heart. This can result in fainting, lightheadedness, headaches, nausea, and other symptoms.
The frequent fainting combined with other symptoms like fatigue and poor concentration can take a serious toll on the lives of those with POTS. Many people with the condition find it difficult to work, go to school, or participate in other daily activities.
Many people are unaware of the symptoms, causes, and treatment of POTS. Here are five surprising facts that you may not know about the condition:
1. POTS is more common than you might think.
About one million Americans live with POTS, and the condition affects about 1 in every 100 teenagers. However, these are just the diagnosed cases. Many people go undiagnosed, and the actual prevalence of the condition may be even higher.
2. The vast majority of people with POTS are female.
Some sources report that about 90 percent of people with POTS are female, and others say that the ratio of women to men with the condition is 5:1. Researchers are unaware of why the condition affects women more. Men are also more likely to fully recover from POTS than women. However, both genders can benefit from treatment and lifestyle changes that accommodate the condition.
3. It can take years for people with POTS to receive a diagnosis.
It’s common for people with POTS to go years without a diagnosis. Many people are misdiagnosed with anxiety, depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, and other conditions before they receive a POTS diagnosis. On average, people are diagnosed after four years of displaying symptoms.
POTS is relatively unknown even in the medical community, so some physicians may not be aware enough of the condition to diagnose it. When people with POTS are misdiagnosed and undergo unsuccessful treatments, it can place a financial burden on them and create a very frustrating situation.
When doctors do test for POTS, they often use the tilt table test, which moves you from a horizontal to an upright position. If you show a significant change in blood pressure and heart rate, your doctor may call for more tests to diagnose POTS.
4. POTS is common in adolescents.
About half of people with POTS are teenagers. During the onset of the condition, teens may see a drop in academic performance or may stop going to school entirely because of the intense fatigue and difficulty concentrating. Fortunately, the majority of teens with POTS see improvements after treatment. About 20 percent report a full recovery, and very few report their symptoms worsening over time.
5. POTS can be debilitating.
There are a wide variety of symptoms associated with POTS, including dizziness, blurred vision, nausea, headaches, heart palpitations, fatigue, and “brain fog.” Not everyone with the condition experiences all of these symptoms, and the symptoms can range in severity. In some cases, POTS becomes so severe that the individual can’t work or go to school. About 25 percent of people with the condition report being unable to perform their job duties.
Fortunately, POTS symptoms often lessen with proper treatment and lifestyle changes. Doctors recommend starting an exercise routine, avoiding naps, and drinking plenty of fluids. There are also medications available to treat some of the symptoms. Although these treatments may not completely alleviate all the symptoms of POTS, they can help make the condition less debilitating.