Postural tachycardia syndrome (PoTS) is an abnormal increase in heart rate that occurs after sitting or standing. Some typical symptoms include dizziness and fainting.
Some people have mild symptoms, while others find that the condition affects their quality of life. PoTS often gradually improves over time, and there are some medications and self-care measures that can help.
In the US, the total number of people with PoTS is estimated to be 1-3 million.
What causes PoTS and who can develop the syndrome?
The cause of the disorder is unknown. Anyone at any age can develop POTS, but it mainly affects women between the ages of 15 and 50. Some women report an increase in POTS episodes just before their menstrual periods.
POTS often begins after pregnancy, major surgery, trauma, or a viral illness. It can make people unable to exercise because the activity causes fainting or dizziness.
What are the symptoms of POTS?
Symptoms may include (but are not limited to) dizziness, lightheadedness, fainting, forgetfulness and difficulty concentrating, fatigue, exercise intolerance, headache, blurred vision, rapid heartbeat or palpitations, excessive sweating, chest pain, tremors, and nausea.
How is it diagnosed?
A variety of tests, such as heart scans and blood tests, are required to rule out other possible conditions.
One of the tests to diagnose PoTS is the tilt table test. This test involves lying on a specially designed table that is gradually tilted until the person is upright while doctors measure their heart rate.
PoTS is diagnosed if the heart rate increases 30 beats per minute above that person’s normal resting level for more than 30 seconds along with symptoms such as dizziness or fainting.
How is PoTS treated?
The goal of treatment is to relieve low blood volume or regulate circulatory problems that can cause the disorder.
Simple interventions, such as adding more salt to the diet and paying attention to adequate fluid intake, are often effective. Medications to increase blood volume and narrow blood vessels are also commonly used.
Drinking 16 ounces of water (two glasses) before getting up can also help raise blood pressure.
Symptoms improved through aerobic exercise such as swimming, rowing, or bicycling in line with cardiac rehabilitation programs.
PoTS can follow a relapsing-remitting course, in which symptoms come and go, for years. In most cases, an individual with PoTS improves to some degree and becomes functional, although some residual symptoms are common.
Sources: National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, Cleveland Clinic, Johns Hopkins Medicine