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Overview: Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome

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What is Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome?

Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) is a type of dysautonomia. It is characterized by reduced circulation of blood when an individual moves from a reclined position to a standing position. The condition causes the blood flow to stay in the lower extremities of the body when an individual changes to a standing position. This results in the volume of blood returned to the heart being greatly reduced and the heart must work harder to return the blood flow to other parts of the body and to the brain. An individual’s heart rate can increase by 30 beats or more within a minute of standing up. As the heart rate increases to supply more blood flow, the individual’s blood pressure tends to drop.

There are 3 types of postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome. Neuropathic POTS is a result of the loss of peripheral nerve supply, leading to poor blood vessel muscles, especially in the legs and core. Hyperadrenergic POTS is as a result of overactivity of the sympathetic nervous system. Low blood volume POTS is as a result of reduced blood volume and it as the similar symptoms to both neuropathic and hyperadrenergic POTS.

What are the Symptoms of Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome?

The most common symptoms of postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome are dizziness, lightheadedness, or feeling faint when changing from a reclined or sitting position to a standing position. Other symptoms include, but are not limited to: increased heart rate, blurry vision, fainting, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, excessive sweating, unclear thinking, anxiety, nervousness, insomnia, chest pain, headache, neck pain, and changing color in the hands and/or feet. POTS can also cause feelings of extreme tiredness. Symptoms may increase before the menstrual period, appear greater when in an individual is in the shower. or stressed. After consuming a meal, symptoms can also increase, as the intestines need more blood flow for digestion.

Who is at Risk for Developing Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome?

Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome can develop at any age and with any gender, however, women are at a higher risk of being affected than men. The most common age of developing POTS is between 15 and 50 years old.

Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome may develop after traumas, surgeries, or viral illnesses. Autoimmune disorders may also increase the risk of developing POTS. Individuals who are experiencing anemia, chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes, Ehler-Danlos syndrome, Lyme disease, hepatitis C, and multiple sclerosis are at greater risk of developing POTS. It may also develop after pregnancy or recent bout of mononucleosis.

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