What is POTS, and how do you know if you have it?

March 22, 2023 | by Edward-Elmhurst Health

There has been a “sharp rise” in the incidence of a disorder that includes dizzy spells and fainting since the COVID-19 pandemic began, and experts say it may be triggered by a COVID-19 infection.

The main symptom of postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) is lightheadedness or fainting, mainly after standing from lying down, because of decreased blood flow to the heart after standing.

Other symptoms included in POTS are:

  • Rapid heartbeat within 10 minutes of standing
  • Dizziness
  • Blurred vision
  • Brain fog
  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Gastrointestinal symptoms like nausea, bloating, diarrhea or constipation
  • Headaches

Between 2-14% of people who recover from a COVID-19 infection develop POTS, according to recent reports. There are five subtypes of POTS, which may overlap in one individual, half of which are triggered by viral infections.

Experts believe there are multiple causes of this autonomic nervous system syndrome, including a connection to viral infections such as COVID-19, major surgery, pregnancy or trauma. Many female patients report more severe symptoms around the time of menstruation.

Most of the cases are diagnosed in females between ages 15 and 50. POTS is estimated to affect between 1 and 3 million people in the United States.

Treatment plans differ based on severity of the symptoms. There are certain drugs that can help treat the condition, and physicians often prescribe drinking more water, increasing sodium intake as well as wearing compression garments and other lifestyle modifications.

“Treatment for this condition requires collaboration between primary care physicians and specialists as well as family and community support,” said Moeen Saleem, M.D., electrophysiologist with Edward-Elmhurst Health.

If you experience symptoms of POTS, make an appointment with your primary care physician.

There are a number of tests doctors use to diagnose POTS. They may monitor a person’s blood pressure while lying down, sitting and standing; test thyroid function through blood tests; and test heart function with a 24-hour monitor, echocardiogram and electrocardiogram.

Looking for a doctor so you can stay on top of your health? Begin your search with Edward-Elmhurst Health’s Find-A-Doctor database. There you can search for a physician by specialty, location, gender and language.

Learn more about neurosciences at Edward-Elmhurst Health.

Support partner with heart issues 750x500

How to support your partner with heart disease

Humans are creatures of habit. Both healthy habits and … decidedly less so. Daily routines can be a struggle to change...

Read More

Hany Demo MD and Larry main 750x500

“It takes a lot off my mind.” Patient first in Illinois to receive new leadless pacemaker

Larry Anderson, 74, of Naperville, used to rely on a smartwatch to track his low heart rate.

Read More

Brain Heart connection 750x500

Can stress damage your heart?

Stress can do a number on your health, causing sleep disturbances, digestive issues, even a broken heart.

Read More