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Dysautonomia and Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS)

What is dysautonomia? 

Dysautonomia is a disorder of the autonomic nervous system – the part of the nervous system that is responsible for control of the bodily functions not consciously directed, such as breathing, heart rate and blood pressure control. It results in an imbalance of the sympathetic nervous system (our “fight or flight” responses) and the parasympathetic nervous system (our “rest and digest” responses). Dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system causes many different symptoms in people and may be called different names depending on those symptoms: orthostatic intolerance, POTS, neuro-cardiogenic syncope or dysautonomia. 

What is postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS)?

Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) is a disorder characterized by orthostatic intolerance, a condition that often causes multiple symptoms, especially when standing for a long time. When a person with POTS stands up, there is a significant increase in the heart rate above the normal rate and the heart rate stays elevated longer than usual. This heart rate response is key to diagnosing POTS. With position changes, blood pressure may fall, stay the same or increase.

These symptoms are caused by an exaggerated response in the autonomic nervous system. POTS may appear after an illness or vaccination (for example,"mono," flu vaccine), after trauma (for example, a head concussion), after surgery or during or after a growth spurt. Other family members may have POTS. Many people develop POTS without any known cause.

Departments

Departments

Pediatric Pain Medicine

The Children's National Pediatric Pain Medicine Program is one of only a few in the country focused exclusively on managing pain for infants, children and teens. When children are unable to express their pain in words, our pediatric specialists have the unique insight to help.

Cardiology

The pediatric heart experts at Children’s National Hospital in Washington, D.C., provide advanced care for unborn babies, children and young adults with heart conditions.

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