POTS. Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome.
I struggle to know even where to start with this subject, which is why I haven’t really mentioned it in the months that this blog has existed. I’ve mentioned pots a few times when it comes to exercising, but I’ve sort of danced around the subject. To be honest, most people in my life don’t even know that I have been diagnosed with POTS, or what this means for me. I’ve never wanted to be defined by this, and therefore have chosen to not speak about it.
At this point, I am ready to speak out. I want to raise awareness to this illness, both to help others who may be struggling with the same issue but haven’t been diagnosed and to aid in understanding for others.
Because this blog is about my journey of fitness and wellness, I would be remiss to pass by my daily struggle with POTS, as it is a huge part of my journey. I plan to share some basic information about POTS, but will primarily focus on my personal journey. Feel free to ask any questions along the way, and I will do my best to answer them.
What is POTS?
Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome is an abnormal functioning of the Autonomic Nervous System (dysautonomia). The ANS is responsible for helping to keep many things regulated and working properly throughout our body. “The autonomic nervous system is responsible for regulating a multitude of organs and functions throughout the body. Some of these functions include temperature, respiration, pupil dilation and constriction, salivation and the digestive tract. A patient experiencing ANS dysregulation may experience abnormalities in the many organs and functions the ANS regulates” (source). Imagine every time you stand up your heart races and you feel dizzy; perhaps you even faint. That’s what happens with POTS.
“But a racing heart, dizziness and foggy brain are only three of many symptoms of POTS, which can include any or all of the following: fainting, extreme fatigue, headaches, stomach pains, nausea and vomiting, difficulty concentrating, weakness in the legs, unusual feelings of hot or cold, excessive sweating, blue or purple discoloration of the legs or feet and, perhaps as a result of all of the above, feelings of anxiety or depression.” (source)
Obviously these symptoms change the way the individual has to live his or her life, at least for awhile. Doing every day, simple tasks, can be quite difficult or exhausting. “The symptoms of POTS are life altering and debilitating at times. POTS patients use about three times more energy to stand than a healthy person (Grubb, 2002). It is as if these patients are running in place all the time. Activities such as housework, bathing, and even meals can exacerbate symptoms (Grubb, Kanjwal & Kosinski, 2006). Research shows that POTS patients’ quality of life is similar to those with congestive heart failure and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (Benrud-Larson, Dewar, Sandroni, Rummans, Haythornthwaite & Low, 2002) Twenty-five percent of people with POTS are disabled and unable to work (Goldstein, Robertson, Esler, Straus, & Eisenhofer, 2002). Most patients will have to make some lifestyle adjustments to cope with this disorder.” (source)
What are the symptoms of POTS?
There are a number of symptoms related to POTS. Please talk to your doctor if you are experiencing these symptoms. For a full list click here. Some of these symptoms include lightheadedness, fainting, palpitations, nausea, vomiting, feeling bloated or pain after eating, fatigue, migraines, etc… POTS sounds really lovely, doesn’t it?
Like I said, I have POTS. I do not let it define me, and I have refused to let it hold me back from doing anything I’ve wanted to do. But that doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been difficult, and that I haven’t had a little more to fight through. But that’s part of my story for another day, as it starts to mix with my journey to running.
Now it’s your turn to share! Have you ever heard of POTS before? Have you ever been diagnosed with something that has made exercising difficult?
Disclaimer: I am not a doctor, and this post should not be taken as expert medical advice. I’m simply someone who has lived many years with POTS who has found resources around the internet that help to explain this syndrome. Please contact a doctor if you have questions about POTS or think you might have it.