Expert Guide to Managing Postural Tachycardia Orthostatic Syndrome
Cardiologists receive a lot of questions about how to manage POTS because it’s a condition which many others in the medical profession still don’t know a lot about. This can be incredibly frustrating for sufferers who may struggle to get a diagnosis. POTS (or Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome) causes a lot of distress thanks to the wide variety of symptoms felt by those with the condition. It can a very debilitating condition which goes undiagnosed or is even misdiagnosed as other conditions such as anxiety, depression, reflex syncope or chronic fatigue syndrome. It’s categorised by the presence of symptoms when standing, as well as an abnormally high, steadily increasing heartbeat.
Those suffering from POTS will usually feel completely normal while lying down but will develop the symptoms when they stand up. Symptoms of POTS can include dizziness, fainting, palpitations, headaches, difficulty in thinking, tiredness, anxiety, shaking, nausea, diarrhoea, visual problems, poor sleep, chest pain, sweating, bladder issues and purple skin discolouration where blood pools in the hands and feet. These symptoms can be pretty frightening for anyone experiencing them.
The exact cause is unknown, and the symptoms can come on suddenly. It’s often seen in young women. Many feel they notice the condition after suffering from a viral illness. However, the symptoms are felt thanks to the autonomic (involuntary) nervous system malfunctioning, meaning that it behaves abnormally upon a person changing their posture, i.e. standing up. Where the blood vessels usually contract when a person stands, forcing blood up to the brain and heart, with POTS, this automatic adjustment doesn’t occur.
How to Manage POTS – Our Top Tips
- One of the first things to know about how to manage POTS is that as the condition becomes more disabling, your actions may actually cause symptoms to become worse. That’s because those suffering from POTS will often want to remain sitting or lying down, and you may start to lose tone in the leg muscles.
- If your symptoms change from day to day, understanding which triggers affect you are an important step in how to manage POTS.
- Everyone is different, so triggers for your symptoms may be different for someone else. However, common triggers include standing up quickly, dehydration, getting excessively hot, unusually excessive exercise, alcohol, bed rest for a prolonged period, eating refined carbohydrates such as sugar or white flour, viral infections, menstruation, certain times of the day or after an operation.
- There are three main factors to consider when finding out how to manage POTS in an individual. This includes ways to increase their blood volume, reduce the excessive rise in their heart rate and improve muscle tone in the legs to help blood vessels squeeze blood more effectively.
- Increasing your blood volume when looking at how to manage POTS should include improving your fluid and water intake so that you remain hydrated, enhancing your salt intake, and a doctor may also recommend taking fludrocortisone.
- You can reduce blood volume losses by avoiding things like caffeine (a diuretic) and excessive heat such as steamy showers and hot rooms which may leave you dehydrated.
- Lowering the heart rate when exploring how to manage POTS can sometimes be achieved through prescribed medications from your doctor. Ask them about your best options.
- Exercise is one of the most important elements for how to manage POTS, especially when looking to improve the muscle tone in your legs.
- How to manage POTS exercises don’t have to be ones you carry out when standing up. You can improve your muscle tone with activities such as cycling, swimming and using rowing machines, for example.
Although POTS was first recognised in journals many years ago, some medical professionals are unaware of or have little understanding of the condition. This can be incredibly upsetting and frustrating for sufferers who may be feeling very alone, disbelieved about what they’re experiencing and are struggling to be heard. Our key advice is not to give up hope. There are doctors who understand the condition and can provide you with the support you need. They’ll assess your symptoms, triggers and how your heart rate is affected when standing. POTS can often be categorised as the presence of symptoms with an abnormally high heart rate which persistently increases by 30 beats per minute within ten minutes of standing up. This may be an even steeper increase for those under 19.
Speak to a Specialist
One of the first steps in moving forward in the management of your Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome is to speak to a doctor who knows more about the condition. Dr Sanjay Gupta is a consultant cardiologist and heart specialist. He has in-depth knowledge about a number of specialist cardiac conditions, including POTS. He has over 28 years of experience in medicine and believes in empowering others to take control of their health and reduce the anxiety associated with conditions such as POTS.
If you would like to discuss the symptoms you’ve been experiencing, Dr Gupta offers a range of options for booking a consultation. He conducts them in-person at the Nuffield Hospital in York but also provides telephone and webcam consultations too. This can be helpful if you don’t live close, you just want to talk through your situation with a specialist or would like some help with the next steps. Dr Gupta is happy to discuss POTS with you at any stage of your diagnosis, whether it’s something you think you could be experiencing, or your need more help with managing the condition.
During your consultation, Dr Gupta will discuss your problem with you to see if you can get a better sense for what’s going on with your health. He offers honest, invaluable advice, and can recommend the next steps. This could be booking an in-person consultation so that he can examine you properly and organise further investigations, for example. He may also suggest some ways to manage your condition that you hadn’t discussed with anyone before. Managing POTS can be very much trial and error when you first make the right steps to tackle it, but with the right help, you can relieve symptoms for good.
If you’ve been looking for how to manage POTS, book a consultation with Dr Gupta now.