A viral TikTok is informing women about postural tachycardia syndrome, which can cause fatigue, headaches and ADHD-like symptoms. But what are the facts?

“It took me 29 years to get diagnosed, and I don’t want anyone else to have to wait that long”.
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Svetlana Larshina

If you've seen the viral #POTSTok videos doing the rounds on TikTok, the chances are that you're wondering what postural tachycardia syndrome (or PoTS) is. 

One video on the condition – shared by TikToker @MichellaneousMusings – has racked up 2.2million views and prompted plenty of comments. Its caption reads: "I’m not a doctor, but it doesn’t hurt for people to look up the symptoms. It took me 29 years to get diagnosed, and I don’t want anyone else to have to wait that long!"

TikTok content

This content can also be viewed on the site it originates from.

In the clip, she writes: "Not me commenting 'have you heard of POTS?' on every young woman's post who is often in bed; seems to have low energy; has had ADHD symptoms; has heat sensitivity; has depressive symptoms; has digestive problems; has a mystery illness that no one can figure out.

"Because doctors don't hear us and information is free! You deserve to know about this condition and get tested for it on the off chance you have it!!"

But while this particular video is the one that has peaked viewers' interests, the most common symptoms of PoTS are actually quite different – though experiences vary from person to person. Generally, it's known as a condition that affects the autonomic nervous system, which regulates blood pressure when you sit up or stand. PoTS sufferers experience a drop in blood supply to the heart and brain when they become upright, meaning the heart races to compensate.

Other creators on the app have also mentioned symptoms such as brain fog, sweating, feeling very cold, sleeping problems and salty food cravings. GLAMOUR spoke to Dr Giuseppe Aragona, GP and online health adviser for Prescription Doctor, to find out more about the condition.

What is postural tachycardia syndrome?

"Postural tachycardia syndrome, or PoTS as it is also known, is experiencing a fairly sudden and abnormal increase in heart rate after standing or sitting up. Often the increased heart rate is accompanied by dizziness and sometimes fainting. It is most common in women aged between 15 and 50."

What other symptoms are associated with PoTS?

"It has been noted that one of the causes of PoTS is inheriting a faulty gene that causes too much of the 'fight or flight' hormone noradrenaline to be produced. So, these could be those with it who may suffer with ADHD-like symptoms. However, it is difficult to say exactly why they would experience them, but an increase in this type of hormone seems likely to be the answer."

TikTok content

This content can also be viewed on the site it originates from.

Does it often go undiagnosed?

"It can do, because those who experience it may just assume they are experiencing these symptoms from 'standing up too quickly' as often this can cause dizziness or a sudden loss of vision. Dizziness and light-headedness are also common symptoms of low iron, so again this could be misdiagnosed as an iron deficiency as opposed to PoTS."

How is postural tachycardia syndrome diagnosed?

"The tilt table test is one of the common ways to diagnose the condition. Your heart rate and blood pressure are measured while you lie on a specifically designed bed that can be tilted upright – the measurements are taken a few more times while the bed is slowly tilted into a more upright position."

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What is the treatment for PoTS?

"To treat an episode, you should lie down and raise your legs. There are also lots of ways to reduce symptoms such as drinking plenty of water, keeping active and avoiding long periods of standing.

"A health specialist may also suggest a beta blocker which decreases the heart rate, midodrine which narrows blood vessels, fludrocortisone which decreases the amount of sodium lost in your urine, and SSRIs which is a type of antidepressant that can affect how your nervous system works. 

"However I would advise speaking to your GP if you think you may have PoTS as they will be able to refer you to see if you need a diagnosis. I would also advise making the relevant lifestyle changes to reduce symptoms as a first step before heading down the medicine route."