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Health and Fitness News

Perplexing POTS

What you should know about postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome.

For most people, blood flow remains consistent throughout the body, regardless of whether they’re lying down, sitting, bending over, or standing up. For people with orthostatic intolerance (OI), however, the rate of blood flow changes depending on the position they’re in. This results in lightheadedness, dizziness, and fainting when getting up after lying down.

OI is the most common symptom for people with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome. Abbreviated POTS, the condition comes with a range of symptoms. While the cause remains largely unknown, POTS is associated with several other health problems. And while there’s not a cure, there are ways to help manage symptoms.

Keep reading to learn more.

From Lying to Standing

Instead of the typical steady blood flow throughout the body, POTS causes blood to remain in the lower body upon standing up. Because this causes the heart to lack blood flow, the heart speeds up by 30 or more beats per minute in an effort to get blood to the brain. This increase causes a sudden, dramatic drop in blood pressure.

When this happens, you may feel faint, lightheaded, or dizzy. Your vision may be blurry, you may feel exhausted or short of breath, and you may start sweating. It’s hard to concentrate and you have brain fog. You may feel nauseated and even throw up. With frequent episodes, simple everyday tasks become monumental.

In addition to these symptoms, some people with POTS experience chest pain, hot or cold sensations, nervousness, or anxiousness. Headaches, neck pain, and insomnia are common. As if that’s not enough, you may also deal with gastrointestinal symptoms and your hands and feet may look a strange red or purple color. Symptoms of POTS are often most noticeable when you’re stressed, after you eat, or when you’re standing for long periods.

Procuring POTS

What causes POTS is yet to be discovered, but it’s related to an imbalance in the autonomic nervous system, and certain health conditions seem to put people at a predisposition for the disease, though having any or multiple of the diseases doesn’t guarantee POTS. Diseases and conditions that seem to be linked with POTS include diabetes, chronic fatigue syndrome, anemia, Lyme disease, multiple sclerosis, hepatitis C, mononucleosis, pregnancy, and mitral valve prolapse. Experiencing trauma or undergoing major surgery may also lead to POTS.

Tilt Table Test

POTS can be difficult to diagnose with its range of symptoms, but the best way to determine if you have the condition is known as a tilt-table test, which is performed by a cardiologist or neuromuscular specialist. For the test, you lay down, strapped to a table. Initially, the table is flat. Slowly, the table tilts until you’re in a vertical standing position. While the table changes positions, your heart rate and blood pressure are closely monitored for changes.
Diagnosis of POTS can also be made based on changes in heart rate and blood pressure as you change from lying down to sitting and to standing.

Symptomatic Relief

Your symptoms from POTS may be mild and infrequent or severe and debilitating. A variety of remedies can help bring relief of your symptoms.
Medications may help regulate blood flow and blood pressure, and lifestyle changes can go a long way in improving the quality of your life.

If you’re living with POTS, maintain a diet that includes plenty of water and salt to increase the amount of blood and fluids in your body. Also, plan to eat smaller, frequent meals, and though exercise may seem impossible, even small amounts are helpful to improve blood flow and heart health. It may be beneficial to wear compression stockings that go up to your thighs to keep circulation moving from your legs to your heart. And be sure to get plenty of sleep on a regular schedule.