Despite being a real and terrifying condition for some, Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome is an often misdiagnosed syndrome. Up to this day, medical professionals are still baffled by the causes and treatments of this condition.
What is POTS?
POTS is a condition where the heart rate increases to 30 or more beats per minute without significantly changing the blood pressure. This increase is caused by faulty signals of the nervous system that commands blood vessels to transport blood to the wrong places.
Common symptoms of POTS include dizziness, disorientation, a feeling of faintness, and nausea when standing up. These symptoms impair patients from doing simple tasks, from grocery shopping to taking care of a newborn child. POTS renders its sufferers exhausted just from standing or walking a few steps.
According to Dysautonomia International, an organization that strives to inform the public about POTS, the syndrome occurs to young, premenopausal women. Rare Diseases Clinical Research found that POTS are present in 500,000 Americans, most who are women under 35. Other studies have shown that POTS affects adolescent girls as well.
What causes POTS?
Dr. Blitshteyn at the University of Buffalo School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences says POTS has many causes. But, pinpointing those causes proves to be difficult for medical science. Despite that, many medical professionals are searching for commonalities, which may or may not be the causes of POTS.
Medical professionals identified that many POST patients had reported migraines, chronic fatigue syndrome, and other autoimmune disorders. A common trait that is also shared among POTS patients is high flexibility. Dr. Philip Fischer, a pediatrician at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, theorizes that POTS is caused by the hardening of the once flexible blood vessels.
Other than that, Dr. Fischer found interesting common traits in two different age groups of POTS sufferers. Most of the adolescent patients had suffered other conditions like concussions before POTS but never got better. Meanwhile, POTS is triggered by pregnancy or flu in many adult sufferers.
Why are there few studies about it?
A survey of 3000 POTS patients has found that they consulted seven doctors and waited four years before they can be correctly diagnosed. This long duration doesn’t necessarily mean that doctors are not aware of POTS; instead, the symptoms are too common to be misdiagnosed.
POTS sufferers, especially those who were pregnant, are often misdiagnosed with postpartum depression or anxiety. Some are misdiagnosed with panic attacks or fainting spells, and others are just misdiagnosed with no abnormality. It is only when these patients are administered with a ‘tilt table test’ that they have finally diagnosed with their actual condition: POTS.
Nonetheless, many medical professionals are not aware of POTS. Also, POTS is a condition that is under-researched. It is one of the many reasons why POTS patients are taking a stand to be advocates for its awareness. One example of that is Wendy Baruchowitz.
Wendy Baruchowitz created the POTS Take A Stand to encourage further research on the condition. The organization is raising funds to finance POTS research and awareness projects. Her team has earned $20,000 for Dysautonomia International’s POTS Research Fund. It is also providing POTS sufferers with access to appropriate doctors and medications.