It’s a syndrome that affects 50,000 people in Canada, but even though a large number of people are impacted, not many people know what this syndrome is.
The syndrome is POTS, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome. It is a form of orthostatic intolerance, which means there is an excessive, abnormal rapid heart rate, among other symptoms when a person stands up. Though it is not a life- A threatening syndrome, it is a chronic disease that affects daily life.
Ashley Pauls, 33, of Belleville is currently living with POTS.
“Your whole autonomic nervous system isn’t read properly so anything that you do automatically breathing, thinking, digestion, heart rate, blood pressure, entire autonomic nervous system is affected. It also affects your fight or flight syndrome It’s like you’re in a constant fight or flight mode all the time.”
There are many symptoms generated by the syndrome and they usually show themselves in a more intricate way. The general symptoms range from, a high heart rate, general fatigue, and nausea, to dizziness and headaches.
“I get really, really dizzy. Before I was on a betablocker, I used to faint. I also feel as though I‘m going to faint, I’m nauseated, pain weakness those sort of thing,” says Pauls.
Pauls first started showing symptoms when she was little, but doctors didn’t know what it was. The symptoms started to become more severe when she hit the age of 24 and she was officially diagnosed with POTS nine years ago.
To be diagnosed with POTS, physicians must see a heart rate increase of 30 beats per minute, or exceed 120 bpm within the first 10 minutes of standing. The most common test used to diagnose patients with this syndrome is the tilt table test. The test consists of lying you down on a table you are strapped to. You are hooked up to IVs and monitors so doctors can watch your heart rate and blood pressure. After being in a horizontal position, they will raise you into a standing position and monitor what happens to your heart rate.
Pauls has found that her body has become deconditioned over time. Since her body is naturally running on an adrenaline rush constantly, she’s naturally exhausted all the time.
She has been prescribed a betablocker to help control her heart rate instead of having it shoot 30 beats per minute.
“What the cardiologist don’t realize though is that shooting of your heart rate that still makes you feel just as sick as it did in the beginning.”
Before Pauls was diagnosed with the syndrome, she had never heard of it. Now that she has lived with it for the past nine years, she tries and brings awareness to POTS since it is not a common syndrome.
“I actually have a blog that I write at. It kind of helps people who first get POTS, and a lot of moms or parents of kids with POTS. I try to help them anyway I can. I give them lifestyle changes they can make,” says Pauls.
More effort is needed to spread the word about POTS. Since it is a syndrome based around adrenaline, a lot of doctors believe that anxiety is a big cause of it.
“Depending on the doctor, they don’t even believe in POTS. They think because it affects your fight or flight syndrome, they automatically assume it’s an anxiety disorder, and they don’t really get that it’s happening to your body.”
In the United States, institutes such as the National Institutes of Health and others are working on research on POTS, alongside the Mayo clinics that are being dedicated just to this syndrome.