Let’s jump straight back into it, shall we? No time like the present and all that jazz.
So, as I said in the previous blog post, I was referred to a cardiologist at a local hospital to test for POTS. The only real way to officially diagnose POTS is via something called a Tilt-Table Test. Essentially, you are strapped onto the bed/table, which is slowly tilted upwards (around 60-70 degrees) to mimic standing. The straps are in place as a safety measure in case a patient faints. A footboard is also present so you’re not just dangling! Heart rate and blood pressure readings are taken throughout. The upright position can last anywhere from 10 to 45 minutes, depending on your readings, symptoms etc. The test will end when adequate results have been obtained, the patient has fainted or the maximum time has elapsed.
To be given a diagnosis of POTS, a person has to have:
- A sustained increase in heart rate of greater than 30 beats per minute within 10 minutes of standing
- Those aged 12-19 years require an increase of at least 40 beats per minute
- These criteria may not apply to those with a low heart rate when resting
- There is usually no drop in blood pressure on standing
I wasn’t particularly nervous about my upcoming test as I just genuinely wanted some answers; did I have POTS? Was my M.E diagnosis wrong? I can’t recall exact details (my test was in May 2012), but I definitely remember how utterly strange it felt. I became symptomatic almost straightaway after being tilted, which wasn’t really a surprise. My feet, legs, hands and arms all started to go numb and the little energy I had was simply draining away. After only a short time, I’d say about 20 minutes or so, the cardiologist stopped the test as he had seen enough and it was evident that my symptoms were causing me some real trouble. Once I’d had a rest, gotten changed out of my hospital gown and my mum had entered the room, he told us both that I did indeed have POTS. There was no doubt about it. He couldn’t tell me whether I had M.E alongside it as the symptoms overlap so much. But to have a diagnosis of something that can be properly tested for was a real relief; as if I now had something concrete and medically proven. Overall it obviously wasn’t an enjoyable or pleasant experience; when are hospital tests ever either of those things? But to have something 100% proven, something that couldn’t be dismissed as fake, was a wonderful result. I know not everyone is this lucky and it upsets me greatly, but this is just my own story and experience; many struggle to be heard and are refused tests that can easily be carried out, even though there is strong evidence of another condition at play. On this occasion, I was unbelievably thankful for my lovely GP, cardiologist and NHS.
Have a great weekend!