Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) describes a group of symptoms that are commonly seen together. For people with POTS, going from a position of lying on their back (supine position) to sitting up causes an increased heart rate (tachycardia). The person’s blood pressure often does not change, but when it does it can be either lower or higher than normal. POTS may make it difficult for one to do day to day tasks and thus can affect quality of life.
People with POTS have a rapid heart rate when sitting up or standing. Other symptoms may include fainting, migraines, fatigue, and blotchy purplish skin while standing (blood pooling). Anyone can develop POTS, but it is more common in women under 50. Although the symptoms are similar to those of panic and anxiety disorders, POTS is not a mental health condition. Its underlying causes are many, including certain genetic conditions (e.g. Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, mitochondrial disease), diabetes, hepatitis C, pregnancy, multiple sclerosis, vitamin deficiencies, anemia, certain infections (e.g. mononucleosis, Epstein Barr virus, & Lyme disease), autoimmune disorders (e.g. Lupus, Sjorgren’s syndrome, & sarcoidosis) and more.
A tilt table test, which monitors heart rate as the table goes from a flat to upright position, is used to diagnose POTS. Other tests will be performed to determine the underlying cause. Treatment may include certain dietary changes and medications, but again is dependent on the underlying cause. Long term outlook is also dependent on the underlying cause and the severity of symptoms. Research is ongoing, so talk to your doctor about the most current treatment options. If your diagnosis includes a genetic condition, talk to a genetic counselor to learn more information about genetic testing and the condition. Support groups are also good resources of information and can help connect you with others living with POTS.