POTS The teen disease you’ve probably never heard of

Published in Health Advice, 6/28/2016


Julia Swanson was a vivacious, smart, and fun-loving teen until, quite abruptly, she wasn’t. One day, she felt dizzy, nauseous, and her heart was racing before leaving for school. Thinking she was coming down with the flu, she brushed it off. After a few days, the flu never set in but Julia kept having these symptoms. Then she almost passed out in school after walking up the stairs.

Doctor after doctor could not identify why a healthy teen was experiencing such debilitating symptoms. One said it was simple tachycardia — an abnormally rapid heart rate — brought on by the stress of school. Another said it could be anxiety or panic disorder. Another said it was irritable bowel syndrome. Yet another said it was a hormonal imbalance. The last one said it was allergies. Julia became unable to walk very far, be active, concentrate, socialize, or do anything she would normally enjoy doing.

Every doctor she visited missed the diagnosis. It wasn’t until her mother, Elaine, took her to a psychiatrist to rule out any psychiatric conditions, but the doctor said he didn’t think she had any mental issues at all. In fact, she was reacting very normally for someone going through such terrifying physical experiences day in and day out. “She may have POTS,” he said. It was the first time that Elaine had heard the term before.

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