Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) is a chronic condition that affects the autonomic nervous system. It causes an abnormally fast heart rate when you stand up, which can lead to a number of other symptoms, including dizziness, lightheadedness, and fainting.
As if that wasn't enough, there's often some unspoken symptoms. Things that are just too embarrassing to talk about. No one even brings it up in the support groups you're in!
You're not alone.
It's important to be aware of them so that you can get the treatment you need. Remember, it's not your fault. Your body isn't working the way it should, and no matter what you do... you may still experience some of these more embarrassing symptoms of POTS.
- Blurry vision. When you stand up, your blood pressure may drop, which can cause your vision to blur. This can be especially embarrassing if it happens in public.
- Sweating. POTS can cause you to sweat excessively, even when you're not hot. Have you ever sweated through a shirt and had to change it? Sweat stains are the pits! As a friend once said, "I'm going home now, I look like a drenched rat."
- Shaking. POTS can also cause you to shake, which can be embarrassing if it happens in public. The shaking that occurs with POTS can be mild or severe and often is most noticeable in your hands. It can make writing or typing more difficult.
- Nausea. POTS can cause you to feel nauseous. If you're in public and you have to vomit, that will certainly garner a few eyes on you. If you're someone who often feels nauseated it might be a good idea to keep some kind of vomit bag with you. There's nothing worse than throwing up on a public street or inside a store.
- Incontinence. Simply, not making it to the bathroom in time. Often incontinence is caused by the massive amount of water you're consuming that simply flushes through you. Some people wear panty liners or pads to help, others find that it's best for them to wear adult diapers. As embarrassing as it is to wear those things, they will help you be more worry free in public.
- Trouble concentrating. ...what was I saying? Oh, yeah! POTS can cause you to have trouble concentrating, which can be embarrassing if you're in a meeting or class and need to be able to act quickly. You need to be on your game for work/school, but sometimes POTS gets in the way.
- Brain fog. Brain fog, a feeling of confusion and forgetfulness is a common symptom with dehydration in general. This can be embarrassing if you forget something important or if you have trouble following instructions.
- Fatigue. POTS can cause you to feel extremely tired, which can make it difficult to participate in activities or even just go about your daily life. Often this presents as needing to sit down when everyone else is standing.
- Passing out. This symptom of POTS can be so embarrassing especially if you're not prepared or are not with a friend or family member who can act as a support. I've heard the stories of well meaning people calling an ambulance when all you really needed was a medical grade electrolyte.
- Gastrointestinal Upset. No one wants to poop their pants. No one. This is maybe the most embarrassing thing that can happen in public. Gastro upset can happen to anyone. With POTS it's sometimes associated with MCAS and sometimes it can be the salt tablets you took without the proper amount of water that is irritating your stomach. An ORS like NormaLyte is gentler on your stomach and better absorbed - plus, it can prevent diarrhea!
If you're experiencing any of these embarrassing symptoms of POTS, there is help. Talk to your doctor about how you can prevent these from happening. It's possible to live embarrassment free. Well, that is, unless you still have that one photo of you from middle school floating around!
Remember, you're not alone.
Millions of people around the world have POTS. You may be dying of embarrassment, but someone else has experienced the same thing. The onlookers are often sympathetic, and there are many resources available to help you. Don't be afraid to reach out for help.