Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome

Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) is defined by an increase in the heart rate to unusually high levels when an individual stands up. Individuals with the condition often suffer from symptoms when in an upright position.

The usual signs include palpitations and lightheadedness that range in seriousness from mild to debilitating. Aside from the rapid heart rate, there is also a drop in the blood pressure. In some cases, an individual might experience at least one episode of syncope.

What are the causes?

Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome is considered as a form of dysautonomia which is comprised of ailments brought about by an imbalance in the autonomic nervous system.

Once the autonomic nervous system is out of balance, a variety of symptoms can arise involving the cardiovascular system, digestive tract, breathing, skin and muscles.

Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome
An individual with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome experiences a variety of symptoms when upright.

In studies conducted among those with the condition, the individual has altered functioning of the nervous system that affects the lower extremities and chronically low blood volume than normal.

What are the characteristics?

An individual with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome experiences a variety of symptoms when upright. The symptoms vary in seriousness for every individual. In most cases, the symptoms are typically mild while other cases, they can be debilitating.

The usual symptoms that arise include the following:

  • Lightheadedness
  • Palpitations
  • Blurry vision
  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Anxiety
  • Tremulousness
  • Syncope in some cases

Management of postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome

The treatment is a trial-and-error approach in which different options are utilized until the symptoms are kept under control, usually a process that takes weeks or months.

Various measures are carried out such as increasing the blood volume, medications and exercise therapy.

The blood volume can be improved by encouraging the intake of more fluid, adding salt to the diet and/or taking fludrocortisone which is a prescription drug that lowers the ability of the kidneys to eliminate sodium.

A long-term aerobic exercise regimen can significantly improve the condition. In most cases, an exercise program under supervision is needed. These exercises often start with swimming or using rowing machines which do not require an upright position. After 1-2 months, the individual can switch to running, walking or cycling.

The medications that are used as treatment include midodrine and beta blockers.

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