Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome: Part One

To my immense relief, I found out late last year what was causing my extreme exhaustion every day, as well as the dizziness I experienced upon standing. Figuring out that I had Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, also known as POTS, allowed me to get it under control and improve my quality of life dramatically.

What It Is
POTS is a collection of various symptoms and you can learn more on this page, which is a wonderful resource put together by a group of cardiologists. In my case, the crushing fatigue all day and lightheadedness upon standing were my most striking symptoms. In the mornings, I would struggle to get out of bed because I felt horribly hungover (I don't drink, as you can read more about here) and during the day, all I wanted to do was lay on my couch, although even that felt exhausting. When I would meditate using my Headspace app and got to the part where Andy Puddicombe asked listeners to scan their bodies and see how they felt that day, I always always answered, "sleepy and tired", in my head.

In terms of my racing heart, whenever I would stand up from lying down or sitting, my heart would thump in my chest and I would feel dizzy. Regularly, my eyes would also "gray out" and at times I felt I was going to faint. This also happened when I stood up from bending over in yoga, or after squatting when gardening or working on home improvement projects. Other than this, I got headaches regularly and experienced unexplained nausea.

Getting a Diagnosis
The problem with most POTS symptoms is that they're extremely non-specific. If I went to a doctor and told them that I was tired, got headaches, and experienced nausea, I was always ignored. If I persisted, they would diagnose me with anxiety or depression, or chalk it up to a stressful modern day lifestyle.

I was fortunate that when I mentioned my dizziness upon standing at an annual check-up, the physician's assistant followed up and found that my heart rate increased by 40 bpm upon standing. I have read that any increase by more than 30 bpm qualifies for a POTS diagnosis. She referred me to a cardiologist who she said would probably do a tilt table test.

The cardiologist decided that I was fine before doing any kind of examination. He didn't run a tilt table test and just told me that I had orthostatic hypotension, which is when your blood pressure drops upon standing. When I pointed out that my blood pressure didn't drop and instead, my heart rate went up, he said, well yeah, that's to compensate for your blood pressure dropping. The thing is, most doctors and even cardiologists don't seem to be familiar with POTS. Guaranteed if POTS was prevalent in middle-aged men rather than young women, it would get a lot more attention and research dollars thrown at it ... in my opinion.

He was pretty dismissive and told me that I would feel better in 20 years when my blood vessels harden. In the meantime, he suggested that I stand up slowly and drink lots of water. Since I already chug more water than I probably should every day, that wasn't very helpful advice. Then, as a throwaway line, he casually mentioned that I didn't need to watch my salt intake and could have as much as I wanted. This, it turned out, would be my key to feeling better. Then he charged me $500 and sent me on my way.

Next Time
In tomorrow's post, I'll cover my history with POTS and why I may have developed it. I will also get more in depth on what I did and continue to do every day to feel better. Figuring out what was wrong with me was truly life changing, and has led to other positive changes in my life, such as exercising harder. I am so grateful every day to God that He showed me the way to healing.


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