Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome: A Dysfunction Of The Autonomic Nervous System

Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, or POTS, is a condition that causes a drop in blood pressure, fainting, and rapid heartbeat when you stand up from lying down. While this may seem like a cardiovascular condition, it is caused by dysautonomia. Dysautonomia is a dysfunction of the autonomous nervous system. However, POTS is only diagnosed when acute dehydration and orthostatic hypotension are ruled out and there is no blood loss. Here's how to get a diagnosis so you can get effective treatment. 

See a Cardiologist 

Since orthostatic hypotension needs to be ruled out, see a cardiologist for an exam. The key difference between orthostatic hypotension and POTS is that there is no increase in heart rate or, if there is, it doesn't reach the threshold for POTS — an increase of more than 30 beats per minute or a heart rate exceeding 120 beats per minute. A cardiologist will order a tilt table test to measure your blood pressure, heart rate, and blood oxygen when you are safely tilted upright while on the table.

See a Neurologist

With a diagnosis of POTS, you will then get a referral to a neurologist. You can expect to undergo a brain and neck MRI and other imaging to rule out abnormalities that may be causing your dysautonomia, such as a tumor. You'll undergo other tests to determine if your autonomic nervous system is functioning properly or not. Your autonomic nervous system is controlled by your brain stem, spinal cord and hypothalamus, which is located in the brain and does important tasks such as regulating your body temperature and releasing hormones. Tests of your autonomic nervous system include reflex tests and Valsalva maneuvers

Be Treated

One of the first questions you will likely be asked by every medical professional you see is "Are you drinking enough fluids?" The reason for this is that staying adequately hydrated increases the water in your blood, which is necessary to help more blood reach your brain when your blood pressure drops as you stand up. Adding salt to your diet is also important, and you may need to take salt tablets. Treatment may also include medication to increase blood flow and block the effects of adrenal hormones to reduce your heart rate. 

In conclusion, follow-up care with your neurologist is important. At your initial exam, he or she will establish a baseline and develop a goal to reach toward. Keep notes on your symptoms in between visits so your neurologist can make changes to your treatment plan if necessary. 

To learn more, contact a company like North Texas Neuroscience Center PA.

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