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POTS: why this blood-flow disorder is so often misdiagnosed

On Behalf of | Apr 14, 2020 | Failure To Diagnose

One to three million people in Massachusetts and across the U.S. are suffering from a blood-flow disorder called postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome. POTS is a little-known disorder; its cause is unknown, and it has no single medical treatment. What’s worse is that the average POTS patient, according to a study from the U.K., must see around seven doctors over the course of four years before being correctly diagnosed.

Eighty percent of POTS patients are women, many of them under the age of 35. Perhaps for these reasons, nearly half of POTS patients are initially diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder. After all, women tend to be at a higher risk for depression, and if they are young, it means that they generally had good physical health before the onset of their symptoms.

POTS symptoms resemble those of anxiety or depression. POTS affects the autonomic nervous system, which is responsible for heat rate, blood pressure, digestion and other involuntary movements. Its main characteristic is orthostatic intolerance, which appears when patients go from lying down to standing up.

Doctors may prescribe steroids like fludrocortisone to POTS patients. Many patients report improvement after adding more salt to their diet, avoiding caffeine and alcohol and making other lifestyle changes that increase blood pressure and volume.

A misdiagnosis can lead to patients undergoing unnecessary treatments and to their actual condition worsening. If patients followed all the directions of their doctor, then they may be able to pursue a medical malpractice claim against that professional. Malpractice claims can be difficult to build up, so victims may want a lawyer to provide advice and guidance.