Do you feel giddy or breathless and have a high heart rate as soon as you get out of bed in the morning? Rise in heart rate upon standing after sitting or lying down could indicate a heart condition called POTS. POTS stands for Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome. Change in postures can sometimes alter your heart rate, with some symptoms and discomfort in your routine life.
Dr. Thejaswi N Marla, cardiothoracic vascular surgeon at Fortis Malar Hospital, Chennai, says when one develops sudden tachycardia or fast heartbeat with change of position, from either lying down to sitting position or while getting up after sitting, it is called POTS.
What causes POTS?
Dr Marla says, “The heartbeat could increase to more than 120 to 130 or it can go up as high as 180 to 200 also. Though the exact cause is not known, it is mostly associated with autonomic dysfunction, also due to comorbid conditions like chronic diabetes.” Autonomic dysfunction is a condition where the autonomic nervous system is not functioning properly.
What are its symptoms?
However, it does not necessarily mean that one faces the issue every time they get up or sit. “There are times when the body might not be able to cooperate or acclimatize to the same position. That is when it might get triggered,” he adds.
Dr Sudhakar Rao, consultant – Interventional Cardiology, Manipal Hospital, Bangalore, says postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome is more common in women between 15 and 40 years. It usually occurs after viral infections, pregnancy, or after surgery or physical trauma, he adds.
Experts say the symptoms of POTS include:
- Abnormal heart rate
- Exercise intolerance
- Episodes of fainting
- Chest pain
Is POTS a serious condition?
POTS is a benign and uncommon condition, and it mostly subsides by itself. One needs a good amount of rest to help manage it. The symptoms may come and go, for years.
Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome is not completely curable but there are usually no long-term complications, say experts. Dr Marla says, “However, if the sinus rhythm is lost, then one might need medicines like beta blockers and other treatment. Persistent high heart rate can lead to cardiomyopathy, which affects the heart pumping function.”
Certain exercises are also recommended to people with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome. One of the important ways to prevent the trigger of POTS is to stay well-hydrated, say experts. Hydration helps the heart pump blood to your body through blood vessels more easily.
Life expectancy with POTS
It does not largely affect the life expectancy of the person as it doesn’t happen regularly or lead to any adverse event immediately like in the case of a heart attack. But it can disturb their quality of life. A person with POTS might be reluctant to do their regular activities. They should be careful to avoid injuries if they faint due to the condition. Dr Rao says, “They should also increase salt intake and avoid a few things like caffeine. In most cases, one gets relief from POTS symptoms in a few days or months. In some instances, one may have prolonged symptoms which can lead to anxiety, depression and chronic fatigue. Educating them in such cases is important.”
- Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome or POTS causes sudden rise in heart rate with change of position, say from supine to sitting position.
- Symptoms include abnormal heart rate, fatigue, giddiness, palpitations, breathlessness and chest pain.
- It is a benign and temporary condition and usually subsides by itself.
- Staying well-hydrated can help prevent POTS.
- It does not lead to any long-term complications usually but can affect the quality of life of a person, causing depression and anxiety.