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OK, I must have missed it. Just a couple of days ago somebody posted a very interesting article written by someone who is struggling with dysautonomia. It was from his own perspective and his own formal and informal research. Now I can't find it.

Do I keep missing it or was it deleted for some reason? If somebody can locate it, I'd appreciate knowing which post it's in!

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Oh I found the post...Briarrose posted this earlier...

I think that you're getting POTS and NCS mixed together. Most POTS patients don't faint and their blood pressure doesn't need to fluctuate.

The following Website has very good information and links at the bottom of the page - http://home.att.net/~potsweb/POTS.html

Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome

Patient's report on causes, symptoms, and treatment

This Web page represents a patient's report on POTS and related issues. Patients should seek professional medical help and only use the contents of this page as general background information. Patients diagnosed with chronic orthostatic intolerance, POTS or COI, please note the National Institute of Health is conducting a new study and needs blood samples.


Tachycardia means an extremely rapid heart rate, usually signified by a pulse rate of over 100 beats per minute (bpm). Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) is clinically defined as a heart rate increase of 30 bpm or more from the supine (laying down) to the standing position within ten minutes or less. Patients with florid POTS develop tachycardia over 120 bpm within 5 minutes or less. Some patients experience supine tachycardia, which is usually transient in nature and often accompanied by sleep disturbances. Studies show that about 75% of POTS patients are women and that a genetic tendency to develop POTS is usually transferred from mother to daughter.

For a correct diagnosis of POTS there must be an absence of any other known cause of tachycardia, such as a specific heart condition. POTS is usually accompanied by frequent spells of neurally mediated hypotension (NMH), but this is not always the case. NMH means low blood pressure while standing, caused by a defect in the function of the autonomic nervous system. A minority of patients exhibit no measurable lowering of blood pressure during tilt table testing. Some patients may experience an increase in standing blood pressure due to an abnormal overcompensation of the autonomic nervous system to the orthostatic stress of the upright position.

The brain is the most metabolically active organ in the body and requires a steady supply of oxygen and glucose to maintain healthy function. Although the brain represents only 1-2% of the body's mass, it utilizes 20% of the body's oxygen consumption and 15% of cardiac output. Our brains are thus highly dependent on adequate blood circulation to maintain our sense of health and well being. The thought process, regulation of body temperature, hormone release, and many autonomic systems can be impaired by loss of proper blood pressure control. Our survival is as dependent on adequate blood pressure regulation as on the fundamental process of breathing.

A recent study by UCLA has found that women tolerate stress better than men. Thus the claim by some uninformed doctors that POTS is caused by "stress" rather than an underlying physical disease process is not based on the scientific evidence. If stress caused POTS, then men would develop POTS more often than women, the exact opposite of what accepted statistics indicates is the case. Men have a stronger adrenaline fight or flight reaction to stress than women and are less prone to work out problems with friends and family. Researchers found that women have higher levels of a hormone called oxytocin. "Animals and people with high levels of oxytocin are calmer, more relaxed, more social and less anxious. In several animal species, oxytocin leads to maternal behavior and to affiliation."

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), also known as Chronic Fatigue Immune Dysfunction Syndrome (CFIDS), is somewhat related to POTS, at least in terms of a similarity of many of the secondary symptoms. In Europe CFS is called myalgic encephalomyelitis (ME). Doctors at Johns Hopkins, Vanderbilt University, the Mayo Clinic, and the Medical College of Ohio believe that the blood pressure abnormalities mentioned in this paper, known together as orthostatic intolerance, are a cause of some of the symptoms of CFS. It is estimated that 800,000 Americans have CFS and approximately 100,000 Americans have POTS. Some percentage of patents have both POTS and CFS.

Causes What causes POTS? The answer to that question can be answered with a pie chart showing multiple causes, not by any one line statement. Postural intolerance has been likened to a fever in that it is a symptom which can have many diverse root causes, both central and peripheral. It is extraordinarily easy to induce orthostatic intolerance in human beings, and that is why most mammals have four legs, not just two. Even our close genetic relatives, monkeys, chimpanzees, and apes, do not usually stand erect as humans do. Just becoming dehydrated or overly heated can cause temporary orthostatic intolerance, so it should be no surprise that there are many proven and suspected causes. Although gaps in our medical knowledge remain, most of the main root causes for the development of POTS have been identified and are listed below as general categories.

Please remember that nothing is ever 100% proven in the field of science. Until recently Albert Einstein's notion that nothing can travel faster than the speed of light (news story: scientists break light barrier) was accepted as fact. Scientists have now disproven that assumption by making light travel faster than the previously accepted speed limit. Eternal doubt is an intrinsic part of the scientific method. This page passes on the latest theories and accepted "facts," but does not guarantee that better "facts" and theories will not make some items on this list obsolete in the future.

1) Viral and bacterial infections that damage the autonomic nervous system. Patients who develop POTS due to an infection, with no deeper underlying genetic cause, have the best prognosis for a spontaneous recovery over time.

2) The development of POTS in women after childbearing is very common and may be due to changes in blood volume during pregnancy.

3) Exposure to toxic chemicals which damage the autonomic nervous system. This group includes adverse reactions to prescription drugs. Some Gulf War veterans have developed POTS like symptoms after being forced by military leaders to take inadequately tested experimental drugs and being exposed to small amounts of nerve gas.

4) Genetically inherited neurotransmitter disorders, including disorders of catecholamine production and release, such as Norepinephrine-Transporter Deficiency.

5) POTS can be caused by peripheral nerve damage due to rapid weight loss, diabetes, and alcoholism. Doctors at the Mayo Clinic have identified autoantibodies specific for nicotinic acetylcholine receptors in the autonomic ganglia, which are believed to cause of approximately 10% of all POTS cases. Doctors at Vanderbilt University believe that some POTS cases are caused by a partial sympathetic denervation, especially in the legs.

6) POTS can be a phase in the gradual onset of Shy-Drager Syndrome.

7) Damage to the vagus nerve. There have been documented cases of patients developing neurally mediated hypotension and POTS after undergoing radiation treatment to the neck.

8) A mixed bag of less common potential causes, both genetic and acquired. Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a connective tissue disorder which permits veins to dilate excessively, is now an accepted cause of POTS. Essentially anything that can damage the brain stem and important autonomic nervous system structures can cause POTS.

Symptoms POTS is defined as a minimum 30 bpm acceleration of heart rate from the supine to the standing position within 10 minutes or less, with a peak heart rate reaching at least 120 bpm. Some patients have heart rates that go all the way up to 150 bpm and beyond. During tilt table testing, some POTS patients have large drops in blood pressure and pass out (syncope), while other patients have only relatively shallow drops in blood pressure. A small percentage of POTS patients have no drop in blood pressure at all.

POTS is diagnosed on the basis of heart rate increase and heart waveform signature revealed by electrocardiogram, not on the basis of a drop in blood pressure, as is the case with orthostatic hypotension and neurally mediated hypotension (NMH). Neurally mediated hypotension is commonly associated with POTS, but having NMH is not a prerequisite for a diagnosis of POTS. The secondary symptoms of POTS vary significantly from case to case. The most commonly reported symptoms are listed below.

The length of time POTS patients can comfortably stand varies widely from case to case. Patients may become dizzy, lightheaded, and develop chest and heart pain from standing beyond their limit. Blood pooling in the legs and splanchnic bed (abdomen) may occur, which is felt in the same way you feel water fills your mouth when you get a drink. Shortness of breath, blurry vision, tingling in the legs, sweating, and feelings of heat from increased adrenaline production are common symptoms of orthostatic stress. Some patients pass out frequently, which is dangerous as well as uncomfortable. Many patients experience spells of supine or standing vertigo, but this symptom is dependent on the root cause of the POTS. Remember that POTS itself in not a specific disease like polio, but rather a symptom and a syndrome (a collection of symptoms).

The current prevailing theory is that the heart pain associated with POTS is predominately non-ischemic, but further research may alter this perception. It is believed the left sided heart pain so common among POTS sufferers is due to differences in heart chamber pressures, abnormal heart wall motions, and/or nerve damage. It is not related to common angina which is usually caused by blocked arteries cutting off the supply of blood to the heart. While uncomfortable and debilitating, this left sided heart pain is not believed to be immediately life threatening. On occasion, patients may also have the strange sensation that their lungs are filled with glue. This uncomfortable feeling is often misinterpreted as being evidence of a lung infection, while in most cases it is a cardiovascular symptom.

With POTS and NMH you become lightheaded and weak even before you get a measured crash in blood pressure because the small blood vessels in the brain paradoxically constrict when you are under orthostatic stress. This cerebral vasoconstriction cuts off the blood supply to brain cells while veins in the legs and splanchnic bed are dilated and pooling blood away from your heart. With inadequate filling of the heart's left ventricle and abnormal function of the alpha and beta adrenergic systems, it is no wonder that strange and irregular heart beats (palpitations) are a universal symptom of POTS. These are often referred to as ectopic heartbeats, with frequent premature heartbeats the most common aberration reported.

POTS often generates a temporary rise in blood pressure immediately upon standing due to the rapid acceleration of heart rate. Tachycardia is the body?s defense mechanism against a lack of sufficient venous blood returned to the heart. Blood vessels, particularly veins, can become unnaturally dilated, causing blood pooling in the legs and splanchnic bed (abdomen). Thus the heart must beat more times in a minute to make up for the reduced blood volume transferred by each beat. If a POTS patient stands up too suddenly, there may be so little blood in the heart that it may collapse upon itself, causing very painful heartbeats. Patients often have measurably low standing pulse pressure, which can be an indicator of venous pooling.

Frequent urination is a common symptom of POTS, NMH, and severe cases of CFS. This problem is sometimes misdiagnosed as diabetes insipidus, which is a disease caused by reduced production of a pituitary hormone called vasopressin. Some POTS patients develop a diabetes insipidus like syndrome which is believed to be caused by somewhat reduced vasopressin output, low blood volume, and disruption of the alpha adrenergic system, which helps the kidneys retain water and sodium.

Reactive hypoglycemia is a common symptom of both POTS and CFS, and occurs through a complex series of neural and hormonal interactions which are not yet fully understood. Researchers have discovered that people with orthostatic hypotension (low standing blood pressure) often get a drop in blood pressure after eating carbohydrate rich foods. This may be caused by a direct vasodilation effect (increase in internal size of blood vessels) of suddenly higher blood glucose levels. The traditional definition of hypoglycemia is an abnormal lowering of blood sugar levels after the body overreacts to carbohydrates with excessive insulin production. Researchers now believe that this lowering of blood sugar levels is not the only cause of symptoms. Recent studies suggest glucose aggravated aberrations of the production levels of adrenaline, norepinephrine, serotonin, dopamine, and lactic acid may be associated with reactive hypoglycemia.

Most patients with POTS have difficulty sleeping, which may result from a number of factors, including abnormally high adrenaline levels caused by increased orthostatic stress (the stress of standing). Central sleep apnea is a common problem for people with POTS, which in some cases may be due to damage to the medulla, which controls important cardiac and respiratory functions. Central sleep apnea causes breathing to temporarily stop while sleeping.

Low grade fevers, mild chills, and general flu like symptoms are common with POTS. This may be explained by a neurologically based loss of control of basic autonomic regulatory systems, an overactive immune system, or abnormally high adrenaline levels effecting body heat production. Many patients have positive anti-nuclear antibody tests (ANA test), which some doctors say is due to high adrenaline levels activating the immune system. Other doctors suggest positive ANA tests may be due to an autoimmune disorder damaging nerve cells. Patients are left in confusion as to which theory to believe.

Chronic fatigue and weakness are common problems for POTS sufferers. Those who have pure POTS, without CFS or significant immune system involvement, generally feel better and have greater postural tolerance despite tachycardia. Many POTS patients have common allergies, uncommon food allergies, and are highly drug and chemical sensitive. Many POTS and CFS patients experience severe night sweats.

Nausea, bloating, and sore intestines are a frequent complaint. The nausea can usually be eliminated by not stressing yourself beyond your capabilities. Bloating is caused by low motility in the intestines, a byproduct of nerve damage. Patients often develop irritable bowel syndrome, which leaves the intestines feeling raw and tender. Difficulty swallowing (dysphagia - pronounced dis-FAY-jee-uh) is also a frequently reported problem.

Numbness in palms and soles is a common symptom of POTS. Legs, arms, and hands are often totally numb upon awakening from sleep. Upper extremity somatosensory evoked potential studies are usually normal in POTS and CFS patients, but this is not always the case. Unusual coldness of the hands is also common and is referred to as acral coldness. Patients frequently experience sporadic itchiness, burning and tingling sensations all over the body, especially at night. Some patients may also have dramatically reduced sweating, which can be tested for through a thermoregulatory sweat test.

Most POTS patients have poor balance, which may be caused by decreased blood flow to the brain and other disturbances in the vestibular system. The patent's root neurological damage may also cause balance problems directly as well as causing the debilitating symptom of orthostatic intolerance. Patients are often unable to pass a drunk test by walking with one foot placed directly in front of the other. An abnormal gait is common. Patients may walk with legs wide apart and feet flared out to the sides as an instinctive adaptive response to increase their stability.

Eye pain is another common problem, as is a feeling of pressure behind the eyes. Patients can become so weak that their eye muscles are easily strained and focusing is difficult. Many POTS and CFS patients see tiny little black dots floating in front of their eyes. This is a problem of the fluid in the eyes which occurs naturally with age, but which can be made dramatically worse by the onset of CFS or POTS.

Supine blood pressure readings are usually normal or below normal in POTS patients. This is in sharp contrast to multiple system atrophy (Shy-Drager syndrome), idiopathic orthostatic hypotension (Bradbury-Eggleston syndrome), and other forms of central autonomic failure typified by low standing blood pressure and high supine blood pressure. Lack of supine hypertension (high blood pressure when lying down) is usually a sign you do not suffer from the classic forms of central autonomic failure.

Most POTS patients will only have a few of the symptoms listed here, while others will have unique symptoms all their own. A poor memory is a major symptom of POTS, and many patients will have a difficult time just remembering their own symptoms while conversing with doctors. The total damage to the autonomic nervous system POTS sufferers experience, called dysautonomia, causes what Dr. David Robertson of Vanderbilt University refers to as ?mild autonomic abnormalities.? These symptoms, such as frequent urination and reactive hypoglycemia, are not life threatening, but they are quality of life destroying.

People who do not have problems with low blood pressure have a difficult time understanding the concept of orthostatic stress. They fail to realize that blood pressure is as basic and essential a bodily function as breathing. How would you feel if your breathing were constricted for even one minute? Low blood pressure can cause an enormous amount of symptoms and suffering, but those who don?t have it often miss that fundamental point. Some patients with POTS have such a damaged regulatory system that they may get paradoxical wild swings in blood pressure from below 50 to over 200. Complexly, POTS can be a low and high blood pressure problem combined.

Treatment Treating patients with POTS and neurally mediated hypotension is often very difficult. When you stand up your body should automatically constrict blood vessels to help maintain blood pressure in the face of increased orthostatic stress. In the standing position, gravity wants to pull your blood down to your feet. When you lie down, your body should automatically dilate blood vessels as gravity is no longer a force to fight against. With POTS, this automatic regulatory system breaks down and blood begins to pool in places where it should be flowing rapidly. The heart is then stressed with the added work of trying to pull all that blood uphill without help from the much needed alpha adrenergic constriction process.

You cannot replace a dynamic system with a static system.

It is impossible to replace the body?s dynamic, constantly changing system for controlling blood pressure with something as static as a simple dose of chemicals. Drug therapy for POTS and NMH works much better in theory than it does in practice. It is my opinion that we are perhaps 50 years away from truly reliable treatments for POTS and NMH. It is a reasonable decision for patients to try drug treatment, but it is also a reasonable decision for some patients to forgo the risks and expense of drug therapy and just use non-drug lifestyle changes to help cope with their illness. Patients with a history of bad drug reactions should be doubly cautious when considering drug therapy.

A recent Johns Hopkins study treated 100 patients who had neurally mediated hypotension (NMH) and chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). Half of the patients were given Florinef while the other half received a placebo. The results indicated that only 15% of the Florinef treated patients reported a positive benefit vs. 10% for the group given the placebo.

The Johns Hopkins study only involved CFS-NMH patients, not POTS patients, and did nothing to address the root cause of the CFS and NMH. The study only tried to alleviate those symptoms derived from the NMH element of the patient's illness. Other studies make it clear that CFS produces many negative effects on the system in addition to blood pressure abnormalities, which were not addressed by prescribing Florinef. Despite the limitations of the study, it is clear from the hundreds of letters I receive from patients around the world that drug treatment does not work for a significant number of POTS patients as well. For some percentage of POTS patients, which has yet to be determined, drugs do seem to increase comfort and functionality.

Non-drug treatments have low risk and high rewards

Adding lots of extra salt to the diet can increase both blood volume and blood pressure by increasing fluid retention. One must increase fluid intake for salt to effectively expand blood volume. The use of a large, stainless steel chef's style salt shaker can be helpful. A high salt diet should only be tried under the recommendation and supervision of your doctor.

Pouring lots on ordinary table salt on food works better for most people than the use of salt tablets. Salt tablets can irritate the stomach, cause vomiting, and tends to centralize body fluids in the digestive tract, which is not good for either blood volume or blood pressure. For most people salt goes into the human body more smoothly and easily when mixed with food.

Patients with POTS and/or neurally mediated hypotension should avoid garlic and nitrates in food, which lower blood pressure. Most patients also need to give up alcohol, coffee, tea, and adrenaline stimulating herbs like ginseng. Try to avoid eating heavy meals as overloading the stomach decreases orthostatic tolerance by drawing blood to the digestive tract and away from main arteries which feed the brain.

Make sure you exercise every day when you are able. Try to keep your muscles alive, as they produce the natural vasoconstricting hormone norepinephrine. Good muscle tone, especially in the legs, helps limit abnormal blood vessel dilation and blood pooling. Severely affected patients may find any amount of exercise difficult, but one can slowly increase activity over time as you improve. Even just ten - two minute walks a day adds up to twenty minutes of walking, which can help maintain vital muscle mass and thus increase your orthostatic tolerance.

During the day it is better to rest in a recliner chair rather than lying in bed, as constant bed rest decreases orthostatic tolerance dramatically. Astronauts often develop a temporary form of orthostatic tachycardia upon returning to earth due to the deconditioning effects of weightlessness, which are quite similar to prolonged bed rest. Exercises can be done even in bed by tensing and then relaxing muscles in the arms and legs. When muscle mass is lost it is difficult to regain. It is very important to avoid becoming deconditioned through inactivity.

Activities that can aggravate POTS symptoms include working with your arms over your head, lifting heavy objects, and climbing stairs. Warm temperatures have an especially negative effect on the exercise tolerance of POTS patients as heat dilates blood vessels and diverts blood to the skin, thus reducing blood flow in key arteries that feed the brain. Air conditioning during hot weather essential for most POTS patients. A few patients claim benefit from wearing medical support hose, which can be obtained from medical supply stores on the advice of a qualified physician. These support garments look like long underwear and can reduce vasodilation in the legs by applying mild pressure. Many patients, however, find them ineffective and/or uncomfortable to wear.

Meditation may help some patients reduce stress, feel more rested and alert, and often has a mild analgesic effect, reducing the perception of bodily aches and pains. Meditation will not cure POTS or increase your comfortable standing time. Meditation is a possible alternative to the use of sleep aids and sedatives, which often increase vasodilation and reduce orthostatic tolerance. This Recliner Chair Meditation Technique may help patients who have the time and temperament for long periods of quiet sitting.

Note: Below are brief descriptions of some commonly used drugs for the treatment of POTS. This partial list is not a recommendation for any treatment, just the factual reporting of some of the drugs doctors most commonly prescribe. I strongly urge all POTS patients see specialists in the field and not ask ordinary doctors for treatment with these drugs.

Florinef is a common "first use" drug for the treatment of POTS and NMH. It is used to stimulate the body?s retention of salt and water and it also has a very small and indirect alpha agonist effect (vasoconstricting effect). The list of Florinef?s known potential side effects is hair raising, but at the small doses prescribed Florinef is not unusually dangerous. Some patients have had bad reactions to Florinef, but that is true of all drugs. Florinef makes you expel potassium so you must take potassium supplements to keep in balance.

Midodrine is a useful drug for many patients and is probably the most effective alpha agonist currently available. Alpha agonists work by constricting blood vessels, thus reducing blood pooling in the lower part of the body. Sold in the United States as ProAmitine, Midodrine has the advantages of being long lasting and is most like the body?s own natural vasoconstricting hormones in effect. Midodrine is a large molecule that does not pass through the blood brain barrier, which is helpful for patients who are drug sensitive. Because you do not want your blood vessels constricted when you are supine, it is essential that alpha agonists should not be used before bedtime. Supine hypertension is not only uncomfortable, it is dangerous.

Alpha agonists are usually only prescribed for those patients who are not seriously overweight, who have consistently low blood pressure, and whose main problem is vasodilation. Florinef is usually tried first and Midodrine introduced for those who do not respond sufficiently to expansion of blood volume. Some patients have an abnormal supersensitivity to alpha agonists which can present serious problems during treatment.

Supersensitivity to alpha agonists can be caused by impaired amine uptake in the nerve endings of alpha receptors (denervation supersensitivity). Abnormal sensitivity can also be produced by a prolonged lack of norepinephrine release from sympathetic nerve endings, which leads to enhanced receptor responsivity (decentralization supersensitivity). These conditions usually produce a two to five times increase in sensitivity level, but there is a small subset of patients who are hundreds of times more sensitive than normal. For these patients vasoconstricting alpha agonist drugs are dangerous to use because of their sheer potency. If your physician prescribes any alpha agonist drug, consult with him about taking a very small test dose first in order to gauge your sensitivity level.

Beta blockers are used by many doctors to treat POTS and NMH. I have heard of more bad reactions to beta blockers than any other drugs used for the treatment of POTS and NMH, but I have not conducted a statistical analysis as to their actual rate of causing medical disasters. Some patients have found beta blockers to be helpful, especially those patients who develop POTS because of an overly sensitive beta adrenergic system. For these sensitive patients only very low doses of beta blockers are usually required.

Celexa (citalopram hydrobromide) is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor similar to Paxil, Zoloft, and Prozac, but with the claim of fewer side effects and less potential for negative drug interactions. Serotonin reuptake inhibitors have been used for many years to treat neurally mediated hypotension and syncope (passing out). The mechanism through which central serotonin levels effect blood pressure and heart rate has not been fully mapped out. The net effect of Celexa appears to be to increase nerve communication and stimulation of the standing vasoconstriction reflex. This limits venous blood pooling and increases orthostatic tolerance. Celexa and the other serotonin reuptake inhibitors are known to increase norepinephrine release to varying degrees.

Celexa has been used with some success in treating patients who have been unable to tolerate the older drugs used for treating POTS and NMH. Some doctors now use Celexa as a "first use" drug of choice for treating some types of POTS. Celexa is also reported to have the potential for reducing the effects of central sleep apnea, which often accompanies the onset of POTS. Treatment is started at a very low dose level of 5 mg a day or less, and gradually increased over time. Taking a full dose immediately is reported to make patients even more ill while a gradual increase in dosage is often well tolerated.

Please note: I have never taken Celexa and do not personally recommend any specific drug, surgery, or other treatment. This page simply passes on general information which is received from dozens of doctors and hundreds of patients. For recommendations of treatment you must see a specialist. I myself have never had surgery and do not take any drugs for my chronic orthostatic intolerance, just salt and short walks as exercise.

Beware the teddy bear effect

Much has been made of the "placebo effect" in medicine, where a patient derives benefit from a pill, not through any chemical action of the medication, but rather through the purely mental belief that the pill is doing the patient some good. It is my experience that this "placebo effect" has little effect on POTS patients, but many patients do fall victim to what I call the teddy bear effect. The drugs used to treat POTS are not like antibiotics or anti-cancer agents. They do not "cure" anything. At best they can help your body cope with symptoms of a dysfunctional circulatory system, thus making you feel and function better. If the drugs do not make you feel and function better, then consult with your doctor about stop taking the pills.

All drugs have side effects, some of which are obvious, while others may build up slowly over time. If you have chronic high blood pressure and your doctor tells you to stick with a drug, he is trying to save your life. With POTS the situation is usually quite different. If the drug works, you usually feel real benefit fairly quickly, have more energy, have longer comfortable standing time, and generally feel better.

You would be surprised how many letters I receive from patients who keep taking drugs that they claim only makes them feel worse. They continue to take the pills because they want to do something, anything, to fight this devastating illness. For them, taking a medication may be comforting like a teddy bear, even if that pill has no discernible benefit, not even a positive "placebo effect." Generally speaking, patients should take a minimum number of drugs and only those drugs which have proven benefit. I hear of some patients taking four or more drugs a day, but ask yourself this. If any one of them really worked, or any reasonable combination of two drugs taken for synergistic effect really worked, then why would they need to take all the rest? Over-medication is a serious potential problem, not just for POTS, but for any serious illness that has no swift or easy cure.

It has also come to my attention that some doctors continue to advise POTS and NMH patients that sleeping with the heads of their beds slightly elevated at night will improve their orthostatic tolerance. This method was originally developed to help patients with classic orthostatic hypotension diseases, such as Shy-Drager syndrome (multiple system atrophy) and Bradbury-Eggleston syndrome (idiopathic orthostatic hypotension). Those diseases usually cause supine hypertension (high blood pressure while lying down). It was simply assumed, without clinical studies, that elevating the head of the bed would help those with other orthostatic intolerance conditions as well.

There is now documented evidence to suggest that some percentage of POTS and NMH patients experience supine hypotension (low blood pressure while lying down), which often manifests itself after the patient falls asleep. If your blood pressure drops to below normal levels while sleeping, the last thing you want to do is to sleep with the head of your bed raised, thus draining even more blood and vital oxygen from your brain while you are unconscious. It is therefore advisable that patients only elevate the head of their bed at night if they have proven supine hypertension.

Finding Help It is vital that you obtain proper professional medical help and do not try to diagnose or treat yourself. The National Dysautonomia Research Foundation (a wonderful organization which I am not affiliated with) has a list of doctors who are educated in the diagnosis and treatment of POTS at: http://www.ndrf.org/physicia.htm. Anyone interested in POTS can also read the following medical papers and books. Some of the medical papers are from common medical journals, which can be obtained from local public, hospital, or college libraries. Please do not ask me for copies.

"Orthostatic Intolerance and Orthostatic Tachycardia," guest editor of special symposium issue on orthostatic intolerance David Robertson, M.D., The American Journal of Medical Sciences February 1999;317:#2: 75-124

"Postural Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS)," by doctors Phillip Low, Opfer-Gehrking, Textor, Benarroch, Shen, Schondorf, Suarez, and Rummans. Neurology April 1995;45(4 Suppl 5):S19-S25

"Management of Chronic Orthostatic Hypotension," by doctors Jack Onrot, Goldberg, Hollister, Biaggioni, RM Robertson and David Robertson of Vanderbilt University. American Journal of Medicine March 1986;80:454-464 This paper does not deal with POTS directly, but has general information about the autonomic nervous system and the drugs commonly used to treat POTS.

"The Fainting Phenomenon: Understanding Why People Faint and What Can Be Done About It," by Blair P. Grubb, MD, and Mary McMann, MPH. This book is available on-line through the NDRF Reference Page or through amazon.com.


If you read the above mentioned articles you will know more about POTS and low blood pressure than your average cardiologist or neurologist. Most doctors know about high blood pressure, not low blood pressure, and the first thing uninformed doctors will usually do is blame the patient for the symptoms. I strongly suggest you consult an expert in the field instead of trying to educate your local doctor. The drugs used to treat POTS can be dangerous and an experienced physician is needed to determine which drug or treatment is best for the patient.

POTS is recognized as a physical, usually neurological based disorder by every major medical university in America. CFS is currently more difficult to diagnose and thus skepticism in the medical community remains. Doctors ridiculed people with MS, diabetes, and even polio for decades before a critical mass of evidence proved they were real diseases. The same psychological torture is now being inflicted on patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and Gulf War Syndrome, both of which can cause severe orthostatic intolerance. It is essential that medical schools teach students humanity and humility instead of just teaching them how to prescribe drugs and mend bones.

* * * *

You can send me a note by clicking below. I am not a doctor or medical advisor, but I do like to hear brief case histories of patients as they add to my knowledge base and help me improve this Web site. If you find any relevant research not mentioned on this page, please let me know. Please read the brief Frequently Asked Questions page before you write me.

Christopher Calder E-mail

Useful Links

1) National Dysautonomia Research Foundation (NDRF)

http://www.ndrf.org/ The NDRF has doctors list, discussion forum, and general information.

2) Orthostatic Intolerance

Dr. Julian Stewart's recent study is on the Web - Autonomic Nervous System Dysfunction in Adolescents with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Is Characterized by Attenuated Vagal Baroreflex and Potentiated Sympathetic Vasomotion.

http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/abstract/343/14/1008 The Neuropathic Postural Tachycardia Syndrome

http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/abstract/343/12/847 Autoantibodies to Ganglionic Acetylcholine Receptors in Autoimmune Autonomic Neuropathies

http://www.mc.vanderbilt.edu/gcrc/adc/oi.html Vanderbilt University on orthostatic intolerance

http://www.med.jhu.edu/peds/cfs.html Johns Hopkins on neurally mediated hypotension

http://www.aafp.org/afp/971001ap/engstrm.html orthostatic hypotension - notice reference to transverse myelitis

http://www.myelitis.org/ transverse myelitis (a known cause of orthostatic hypotension)

http://home.bluecrab.org/~health/sickids.html For Parents of Sick and Worn-Out Children

http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/abstract/342/8/541 Norepinephrine-Transporter Deficiency

3) Chronic Fatigue Syndrome

http://www.cdc.gov/ncidod/diseases/cfs/index.htm Center For Disease Control CFS page

http://www.cfids.org/ CFIDS Association of America

http://www.cfids-cab.org/MESA/cardiac-1.html - Abnormal impedance cardiography predicts symptoms in chronic fatigue syndrome

The Center for Disease Control has developed a blood test for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome using microarrays chips.

Canada has an important new case definition for CFS (full pdf text).

http://www.cfs-news.org/ajm98.htm American Journal of Medicine on CFS

The Physical Basis of CFS by Anthony L. Komaroff, MD

ABC Fibromyalgia news story

4) Findings by doctors Baumzweiger, Fleckenstein, Haley, and Abou-Donia strongly suggests that brain stem encephalitis/encephalopathy might be a link between CFS, POTS, and Gulf War Syndrome. Could hindbrain case compression (Chiari) and reduced cerebral spinal fluid flow also cause brain stem encephalitis/encephalopathy?

Gulf War, Brain Damage Linked Abou-Donia, Fleckenstein, Baumzweiger, Haley - 5 news stories on Gulf War Syndrome. The evidence is now very compelling and has reached critical mass.

Blood RNA marker links Gulf War Syndrome and CFS!

5) Here is a Mind Experiment for Doctors to help them appreciate the severe difficulties patients with chronic orthostatic intolerance syndromes face every day. Suggestions for reform of the medical profession are also detailed.

6) Lactic acid abnormalities in CFS patients

http://www.rah.sa.gov.au/news/media/media.htm - scroll down to bottom of page

http://home.att.net/~potsweb/lactic.html - easy to print report

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