Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome, or POTS for short, is a condition that affects the circulation of blood in the body. This condition is related to both the autonomic nervous system, which automatically controls the body’s vital functions, and the sympathetic nervous system, which triggers and orchestrates the fight or flight response.
POTS is a form of orthostatic intolerance. When something is triggered by standing up and can be rectified by lying down or sitting, then it is orthostatic. When the person suffering from this condition stands up from a sitting or lying down posture, they feel the symptoms.
The most disturbing and life-changing symptoms of POTS include lightheadedness, fainting, and a rapid increase in heartbeat. A novel treatment for this condition is the oral or intravenous administration of a saline solution. Today, we’ll investigate how effective this treatment is in the light of scientific research. But let’s first discuss the causes and symptoms of this condition.
What Causes POTS?
Two significant factors contribute to keeping blood circulating in our bodies at a healthy pace, heart rate and blood pressure. In an average human, both are coordinated and controlled to make sure the blood flows at a healthy pace.
People who suffer from POTS cannot coordinate the balancing of the blood vessels squeezing when they stand up and the change in heart rate in response to it. Consequently, blood flow and pressure in the upper parts of the body cannot be maintained at a healthy level in these patients.
There are many types of POTS, but three of them are the most common:
1. Neuropathic POTS
It occurs when the tiny nerve fibers in the blood vessels in the limbs and the abdomen get damaged. As a result, the vessels cannot dilate and constrict normally, and blood pressure cannot be maintained.
2. Hyperadrenergic POTS
Adrenaline is a hormone that triggers the fight or flight response in the body. High amounts of this hormone in the body can also cause POTS.
3. Low Blood Volume POTS
A low volume of blood in the body can also cause POTS. Symptoms of low blood volume POTS can overlap with those of neuropathic POTS and hyperadrenergic POTS.
POTS is an illness that is more probable to happen in some people than others.
Who is at the Risk of POTS?
Statistics show that most POTS patients are women aged 13-50. The reasons that can lead to POTS include:
- Serious illness, viral infections, hospitalization, and pregnancy
- People with a recent history of mononucleosis
- People with autoimmune disorders
Before we move towards investigating the efficacy of saline as an effective treatment for POTS, let’s see what symptoms can help you identify this disease.
Symptoms of POTS
POTS is not a life-threatening disease, but the symptoms can be frightening or even life-changing. People suffering from POTS can show some of the following symptoms:
- Irregular blood pressure
- Irregular heart rate
- Chest pain
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Abdominal pain
- Blurred vision
- Trouble focusing
- Excessive or lack of sweating
- Exercise intolerance
Treatment of POTS
No set treatment can be prescribed to cure POTS. The only remedies available are the ones designed to combat the severity of symptoms and control the condition.
- Medications including salt tablets, fludrocortisone, pyridostigmine, midodrine, or a beta-blocker are prescribed to reduce the episodes of POTS.
- Thigh-high medical stockings can help. These exert pressure on the blood vessels on the thigh to push the blood up and reduce the symptoms of POTS.
Blood pressure monitoring is advised to keep a record of the things that trigger POTS in a patient. Blood pressure monitors can be purchased at drug stores.
A new approach for treating POTS is the use of a saline solution. It can be administered orally or into the bloodstream.
Effectiveness of Saline Solution in Treating POTS
According to real-world data collected and analyzed by the AI-powered crowdsourcing research platform StuffThatWorks.health, the use of the saline solution as a treatment for POTS worked:
- Extremely well for 15% of the patients who tried it.
- Very well for 30% of the cases.
- Fairly well for 40% of the patients.
A study titled “Effects of Intermittent Intravenous Saline Infusions in Patients with Medication-refractory Postural Tachycardia Syndrome”, published by the National Institute of Health, found that symptoms of POTS can be dramatically reduced by intermittent IV infusions of saline solution.
In another study titled “The Benefits of Oral Rehydration on Orthostatic Intolerance in Children with Postural Tachycardia Syndrome”, also published by the National Institute of Health, researchers found that:
- Maintaining the levels of cerebral blood flow can result in improved short-term orthostatic tolerance in patients with POTS.
- Oral rehydration solution can be used to alleviate POTS symptoms as a short-term remedy.
All of these are experimental measures to treat POTS. Effective management of POTS requires certain changes in diet and lifestyle.
Managing POTS in Day-to-Day Life
The following diet and nutrition approach can improve the lives of people suffering from POTS:
- Increasing sodium intake to 10,000 mg a day
- Keeping the body hydrated by consuming 2-2.5 liters of water a day
- Taking small meals at short intervals (since they are better in managing POTS than heavy meals after long intervals)
- Partaking of a diet that has complex carbohydrates (since it decreases spikes in blood sugar levels and hence POTS symptoms)
- Having a balanced diet with proteins, dairy, and vegetables
- Avoiding high-calorie and processed foods
Other than this, you need to keep your POTS symptoms in check to manage them better. You should monitor your blood pressure and heart rate at the same time, once in the morning and once in the evening. Any heart reading below 60 beats a minute and above 100 beats a minute is an abnormality. Also, your blood pressure should be 90-120 systolic and 60-80 diastolic.
Take all these readings and note them down. Present the readings to your doctor so that he can fine-tune your treatment.
POTS is a chronic illness. Since it mainly involves nerve damage, it is not fully curable, and the only treatment is symptomatic. The use of the saline solution both orally and intravenously can be an effective remedy to managing the illness.
Even though some scientific studies and the real-life data gathered and analyzed by StuffThatWorks.health point out that the saline solution works for most patients, a universally accepted clinical study with conclusive evidence is yet awaited.