- Symptoms of prolonged covid are postural tachycardia syndrome or POTS. are similar to
- Some doctors believe that Covid infection is triggering the now little-known disease
- Before Covid-19, about 130,000 – mostly women – were PoTS. was suffering from
Some people with long-term covid may actually suffer from a common but little-known ‘dizziness’ condition associated with nerve problems.
Symptoms of coronavirus infection affect one in 20 patients and can include palpitations, dizziness and fainting – which are also key features of postural tachycardia syndrome, or POTS.
Doctors say that the similarity between the two conditions could mean that in some cases, COVID infection can trigger PoTS.
In the picture, 43-year-old Sean Griffith from Anglesey, North Wales, led an active lifestyle until she was hit by COVID-19 on 19 May.
But for long, Covid clinics have not been testing routinely for the syndrome, a leading physician claims, meaning many patients may go undiagnosed and miss out on effective treatment.
One way to combat PoTS is through increased salt intake, which elevates blood pressure, helping to reduce symptoms. Oddly, one patient told The Mail on Sunday that she found some relief from eating hula hoops and salted nuts every day.
Leslie Poet, a former GP who now heads the charity POTS UK, said: ‘We think there may be an explosion in cases of the pandemic – there are specialist services for POTS in the NHS, and they are reporting that their Many new referrals are those patients who first started having problems after catching Kovid.
In December, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) prepared guidance recommending long-term testing of COVID patients for POTS. However, Dr Kavi said: ‘Patients say this is not being done. Instead they find their way to specialist clinics after finding out the situation through support groups on Facebook and other websites.’
The syndrome is caused by abnormal functioning of the autonomic nervous system, which manages involuntary bodily processes, one of which is the regulation of blood pressure and heart rate when we change posture, such as from recline to standing. In this movement, the effect of gravity means that there is a slight decrease in the amount of blood flow to the upper body, but in most people, the nervous system quickly recalculates – the blood vessels in the lower limbs narrow and the heart rate slows. Slightly rises to maintain. Blood supply to the heart and brain.
This does not happen quickly in people with PoTS. As a result, when there is a drop in blood flow to the upper body, the heart starts racing to compensate, triggering a range of symptoms including extreme dizziness and fainting. Sufferers also experience fatigue and ‘brain fog’ – a feeling of confusion.
The condition can be debilitating, affecting the ability to work or enjoy everyday activities. Some end up being wheelchair-dependent.
Patients with PoTS have been asked to eat snacks with added salt – such as hula hoops, pictured
Before the pandemic, it is thought that around 130,000 people in the UK were affected by PoTS, usually women under the age of 50.
It is not fully understood why it affects women more than men.
Patients have chronic fatigue syndrome, and Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, a collection of inherited syndromes that cause very flexible joints and stretchy and fragile skin. Because of the lack of awareness of POTS, patients usually suffer from symptoms for seven years before seeking a diagnosis.
Dr Kavi said: ‘We think, in some people, the neurological problems that cause the syndrome are initially triggered by a viral infection, so the COVID link is not surprising to experts.
But many healthcare professionals haven’t heard of PoTS, so don’t consider it even if patients have specific symptoms.’
To add to the difficulties faced by victims, there are few experts in the UK, meaning that waiting lists for treatment can be eight months or more.
The standard test is simple: Patients are asked to lie down for a few minutes, then stand up. Their heart rate, blood pressure and any symptoms are recorded over ten minutes. If there is a sustained increase in heart rate of more than 30 beats per minute in adults and 40 beats per minute in children, a diagnosis of POTS may be considered.
Dr Kavi said, ‘We are not sure why the Kovid clinics are not doing this for a long time. ‘Time constraints, and lack of face-to-face appointments, could be part of it.
‘We have begun to recommend that patients try it themselves at home – making sure someone else is with them, and that they are in front of a chair or wall if they feel very dizzy or faint.’
With this information, patients should contact their GP for advice, as there are effective ways to deal with POTS.
Dr Kavi said, “Staying hydrated and consuming extra salt in the diet raises the blood pressure slightly, which can help with the symptoms. ‘Muscle-strengthening exercises for the legs can also promote circulation. Medicines may be given to control heart rate and blood pressure.
Some 130,000 Britons suffer from PoTS, which affects mostly women in their 50s, photo presented by the model
One patient who has found relief since being diagnosed and starting treatment is 43-year-old Sean Griffiths of Anglesey. The physiotherapist enjoyed an active lifestyle, mountain-biking and walking in the hills, until May last year when he caught Covid. She says: ‘I was not feeling well. Months later, I was still unable to make the five-minute walk to my parents’ house. I have to sit on the curb to catch my breath.’
Researching online, Cyan found a PoTS group on Facebook. “I watched a live-streamed lecture on this, and the doctor described my symptoms perfectly,” she says.
‘I found that when I woke up in the morning, or if I tried…