Some people who have been dealing with COVID-19 symptoms for months are getting hope with a new diagnosis.
Doctors are starting to recognize a syndrome called POTS in some of them. It stands for postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome.
POTS is a disorder of the autonomic nervous system, which is responsible for controlling things like our heart rate and blood pressure.
It's estimated as many as 3 million people in the U.S. have POTS, not connected to COVID-19, but it's a new diagnosis for some post-COVID patients.
“One has to have POTS-like symptoms at least more than six months before we can diagnose POTS, and that's another reason we are only beginning to recognize POTS now, because the pandemic started earlier this year. And although we feel like it’s been going on forever, we are only recognizing it now,” said Dr. Tae Chung, director of the Johns Hopkins POTS Clinic.
Chung just opened a clinic dedicated to post-COVID patients with POTS-like symptoms about a month ago. Those symptoms include lightheadedness, prolonged fatigue and brain fog.
It is a hard condition to recognize and doctors are being cautious in diagnosing it.
“The symptoms to a medical provider, they may seem kind of non-specific. Oh, you've had an infection, you're going to be tired, but no, when people have lightheadedness that is severe and seems to be disabling and limiting activity, we need to be thinking about the possibility of an autonomic disorder,” said Dr. Brent Goodman, who runs the Autonomic Lab at the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona.
Goodman has also been seeing post-COVID-19 patients who have developed POTS.
The treatment is individualized but can include exercise, changing up how much salt is in your diet, and medication.
It's not clear yet how recovery will be for post-COVID-19 patients. Both doctors agree that the sooner someone can be diagnosed, the better for starting treatment.