COVID-19 and POTS: Understanding the Connection

April 30, 2024
April 30, 2024
COVID-19 and POTS: Understanding the Connection

Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) is a condition that causes a rapid increase in heart rate upon standing, among many other autonomic symptoms. It leads to symptoms like lightheadedness, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating. Recent research has highlighted a potential link between COVID-19 and POTS, causing concern and raising questions for patients and healthcare providers alike. In fact, studies like the one published in Nature Cardiovascular Research highlight a significantly higher risk of developing POTS after a COVID-19 infection compared to after vaccination.

POTS on the Rise

Diagnoses of POTS have doubled in recent years, with a significant increase noted since the COVID-19 pandemic began. This has led researchers to investigate a possible connection between the virus and the development of POTS.

Why the Rise?

Research suggests a link between COVID-19 and POTS diagnoses. Here's what we know:

  • Viral Triggers: POTS can be triggered by various viral infections, and COVID-19 seems to be one of them.
  • Autonomic Nervous System Dysfunction: COVID-19 can potentially damage the autonomic nervous system, which regulates involuntary functions like heart rate and blood pressure. This damage may contribute to POTS development.
  • Predispositions: Individuals with underlying conditions like migraine or hypermobility disorders may be more susceptible to developing POTS after a viral illness like COVID-19


What is POTS?

POTS is a condition affecting the autonomic nervous system, the part of the nervous system that controls involuntary functions like heart rate and blood pressure. In POTS, the heart rate increases abnormally when moving from lying down to standing, leading to symptoms like:

  • Lightheadedness
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Brain fog
  • Palpitations
  • Heat intolerance
  • Temperature dysregulation

Diagnosing and Managing POTS

If you experience symptoms like lightheadedness, rapid heartbeat upon standing, and fatigue after COVID-19, it's crucial to consult your doctor. Early diagnosis and management are key to improving your quality of life.

Here's what to expect:

  • Diagnosis: Your doctor may conduct a tilt table test, where you'll lie down and then be tilted upright to monitor your heart rate and blood pressure changes. You will be hooked up to a saline IV throughout, so if the test becomes too difficult, you will have direct access to necessary fluids. Blood tests and other evaluations might be necessary.
  • Treatment: While there's no cure for POTS, treatment focuses on managing symptoms and improving blood flow. This may involve:
    • Medications
      • Beta-blockers: These medications slow down the heart rate, reducing the rapid increase upon standing.
      • If beta-blockers aren't effective, other medication options can be considered based on your needs.
    • Lifestyle modifications: Increasing salt (6-10k mg of salt/day) and fluid intake, compression stockings, and specific exercises (especially recumbent exercises, isometrics, or swimming) can also be beneficial.

Why COVID Precautions Remain Important:

While the link between COVID-19 and POTS is enough cause for concern, it's crucial to remember that individuals with neurological conditions like migraine still face a higher risk of long-term complications (like New Daily Persistent Headache, migraine chronification, and other neurological symptoms like dizziness and brain fog) from COVID-19. 

Therefore, it’s important to continue following COVID-19 prevention measures like masking, vaccination, using HEPA filters, nasal sanitizers, and more. 

Our neurology clinic is committed to staying updated on the latest findings and providing comprehensive care to our patients. If you have concerns about POTS or suspect you may have developed the condition after contracting COVID-19, schedule an appointment to discuss your situation and explore the best management strategies for you.

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Cannon Tekstar Hodge
Head of Content and Social Strategy
About the Author
Cannon Tekstar Hodge is the Head of Content and Social Strategy for Neura Health. She also is a chronic migraine patient and migraine advocate.

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