MEMPHIS, Tenn. — A common condition known as Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome or "POTS," is being noticed in a growing number of people who have recovered from COVID-19. Regional One Health Medical Director for Ambulatory Services, Dr. Cyrilyn Walters runs the post- COVID-19 clinic located at Regional One Health Outpatient Center and said nearly 60% of COVID-19 patients are experiencing POTS-like symptoms.
"So, POTS stands for Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome and basically what it is when we usually stand, our body responds by speeding up our heart rate a little bit because gravity wants to pull our blood to our legs and so your body has a mechanism to stop that from happening. " Walters said. "So with POTS, rather than having a low blood pressure, when you go from lying to standing, you have an overactive rate problem."
The extra foot traffic at hospitals and doctor's offices from COVID-19 long-haulers is making things tough for people who were suffering from POTS long before the pandemic started.
"The whole hope is all of these things eventually will be temporary and go away," Walters said.
Long-hauler is a term used for COVID-19 patients who are still experiencing symptoms months after being considered recovered for the virus. Walters said POTS could cause a list of symptoms including severe and long-lasting fatigue, brain fog, and headaches.
According to John Hopkins Medicine, POTS was a common condition before the pandemic. Though it affects one to three million Americans, it's mostly seen in young girls and young female adults. Rachel Heimann of Memphis is one of them.
"You start to feel dizzy and at least for me your blood starts to drop so sometimes you feel like you are about to die because your heart rate is going up and your dizzy and you just have tingly sensations everywhere," Heimann said.
Rachel is in a Tennessee POTS support group on Facebook. She said there are people in the group experiencing POTS who never had COVID-19 and are unable to make an appointment. She said she feels like, "doctors a definitely prioritizing COVID patients." So she canceled her check-up to open up a slot for someone else.
"We now have a large influx of people wanting to get those tests so it will get harder and harder and harder to get scheduled. so rather than being able to get one in a month, it might be changed to oh, you won't get one until three to four months," Walters said.
The test Walters is referring to is called a tilt table test. It records your blood pressure, heart rhythm, and heart rate at different angles. She said this procedure is limited in Memphis, but Regional One Health's post-COVID-19 clinic has a generic version of the tilt test that can determine if you have POTS or just POTS-like symptoms, so you don't have to wait.
She also added, if you have lingering COVID-19 symptoms, she can get you in her office within a week of making an appointment at her clinic. Patients can make appointments for themselves without a physician referral by calling 901-545-6969. Select option 2, and then option 1.