You may be familiar with autoimmune disorders such as lupus, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis, but have you heard of postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS)? POTS is a type of dysautonomia, which is a group of disorders that affects the autonomic nervous system and causes an increased heart rate upon standing.
What you may not know is that there is a growing body of evidence that suggests a connection between POTS and autoimmune disorders. In fact, research suggests that up to 30% of individuals with autoimmune diseases may also have POTS. That includes us. We frequently talk about the unique journey we have each been on (pre and post diagnosis) with both Lupus and POTS. For us, there has been so much overlap between the two that at times it can be hard to tell what symptom or ailment is coming from which diagnosis.
The exact connection is not fully understood, there are a few theories. One theory is that the immune system attacks the nervous system, leading to dysautonomia, including POTS. Another theory is that POTS can be a result of inflammation associated with autoimmune disorders.
In addition to these theories, research has shown that individuals with autoimmune disorders have a higher incidence of POTS. This connection may also be linked to an imbalance in the autonomic nervous system, which can be affected by autoimmune disorders and result in symptoms of POTS such as increased heart rate, lightheadedness, and fatigue.
What you can do
If you have both POTS and an autoimmune disorder, it is important to work with your healthcare provider to develop a comprehensive treatment plan that addresses both conditions. Treatment options for POTS may include medications to regulate heart rate, physical therapy to improve blood flow, and lifestyle changes such as increasing fluid and salt intake. In some cases, individuals with POTS may also benefit from working with a dysautonomia specialist to develop a personalized treatment plan. We both see a Neurologist who specializes in POTS and Dysautonomia.
The connection between POTS and autoimmune disorders is a growing area of interest in the medical community and is of constant fascination to us. If you have both conditions, it is important to understand the connection and work with your healthcare provider to develop a comprehensive treatment plan. It has been (and continues to be) a constant battle of trial and error for us to find the right formula that helps us feel our best.