What are Dysautonomia and POTS?
What is Dysautonomia?
Dysautonomia is a dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system controls the automatic responses of the body (the functions of the body that no one needs to think about) – breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, organ function, temperature control and the release of hormones, for example. In dysautonomia, the autonomic nervous system is no longer working correctly, and these functions are no longer properly controlled.
Dysautonomia may be primary (some neurological conditions), secondary (congenital, metabolic disorders, surgery, infections, inflammation, toxins), or intermittent (vasovagal syncope).
What is POTS Syndrome?
POTS, or Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome may be considered a secondary form of dysautonomia. If it is a short-term condition, perhaps from deconditioning, space travel (truly), or dehydration, symptoms can be controlled without too much difficulty. But for many, POTS is a long-term condition and can result in a plethora of symptoms and can render the patient disabled.
Common Symptoms of Dysautonomia:
- Irregular blood pressure
- Orthostatic intolerance (the inability to remain vertical without developing symptoms)
- Irregular, fast, or slow heart rate
- Gastrointestinal problems — Gastroparesis, IBS (“irritable bowel syndrome”), delayed gastric emptying, constipation, and diarrhea
- Poor temperature control
- Exercise intolerance
- Difficulty breathing
- Extreme and chronic fatigue
- Poor sleep
- Loss of balance
- Brain fog
- Personality changes
Because physicians often find no cause for this plethora of symptoms, fast heart rate and difficulty breathing are often labeled as “deconditioning” and “inappropriate sinus tachycardia”. Pain and depression are often blamed for abnormal sleep patterns, personality changes, and fatigue. Many symptoms and signs are often ignored if the physician has no answers. Patients with an “invisible illness” often appear to medical personnel as otherwise healthy; their numerous neurological signs may be intermittent and positional, making diagnosis difficult.
It is only by looking carefully at the patient’s history and trigger for POTS and/or dysautonomia that answers can be found. Because physicians may not understand the underlying condition or have not yet identified it, does not mean it does not exist. This mindset, when allowed to stand unchallenged, can stall effective treatment and research.
POTS Care is the only clinic devoted to treating the underlying medical cause of POTS – not just the symptoms.
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