Monday, December 3, 2012

It's here! Dysautonomia SOS's Website is FINALLY Here!

YAY! The Dysautonomia SOS site is up and running. 

Here are a few sneak peak pictures. I will be back blogging more actively now, looking forward to it!

Thanks to everyone that helped make this a success! 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Find Others! Join The Dysautonomia Social Media Directory!

Let’s connect online! Add yourself to our interactive map and find others online and in your area. You can upload pictures, online contact info, blogs, websites, and more!

***Under “Additions” menu, click on either the simple or detailed add form. You can select to be added as a patient, spouse, parent, or family/friend.

Friday, November 23, 2012

POTS in the news!

Recently, there was a two part series about POTS that was very well written, and included the stories of the son of one of Dysautonomia SOS's volunteer's, and myself!

Here is a link to Part 1, which includes great info about POTS, and the story of John, a teen battling POTS with an amazing attitude:

Is it depression, anxiety or POTS? The first article of a two-part series

John Point
by Sue Ann Rybak
John Point, of Chestnut Hill, was a typical kid who loved hanging out with his friends on the basketball court.
But in the Summer of 2009 he started to have flu-like symptoms: aches, fatigue, headaches.
“John was on the cusp of turning 13 and had really started to grow a bunch,” Janet Point, his mother said.
At first his parents and the doctors thought he had mononucleosis. But after a battery of tests, including CAT scans, an electrocardiogram (EKG) and allergy tests, and a heavy dose of antibiotics, the doctors could find nothing wrong with him.
“Somewhere around the third or fourth test for mono, the doctor said, ‘Well maybe he’s just making this up,’” Janet said. “I thought, ‘I don’t think he has invented this.’”
“You just couldn’t get John out of bed in the morning using proper or improper motivational techniques,” said Steve Point, his father. “Yelling at him and dragging him out of bed didn’t work. But, he didn’t seem like he was so sick that he couldn’t get out of bed.”
Finally, desperate to find an answer, John’s Dad sent out emails to members of the Chestnut Hill Sports Club.
“There is a giant email address list that goes around and there are a number of physicians on the list,” Steve said. “So, I thought maybe someone can recommend a doctor at CHOP. (Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia), who specializes in weird diseases.”
Steve said someone recommended Dr. Mark Magnusson at CHOP, and he performed a “tilt-table test,” which is one of the techniques for detecting POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome). During a tilt table test, a patient lies on a table that moves from a horizontal to a vertical position. Measurements of heart rate and blood pressure are taken while lying flat and then again at intervals while tilted upright. The optimal duration of tilt testing in patients suspected of having POTS is 40 minutes or until they faint, at which point the test is concluded.
It was February 2010 when Magnusson diagnosed John with POTS.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, POTS is a condition in which an excessively reduced volume of blood returns to the heart after an individual stands up from a lying down position. The primary symptom is lightheadedness or fainting accompanied by a rapid increase in heartbeat of more than 30 beats a minute, or a heart rate that exceeds 120 beats a minute, within 10 minutes of rising.

Here is Part 2 (featuring me!): 

POTS victim has hope despite limited activity

Claire Martin with her baby girl, Gabriella.
by Sue Ann Ryback
(The second of two articles)
Claire Martin, 34, founder of Dysautonomia SOS: Searching Out Solutions, knows first-hand the obstacles and challenges of living with POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome).
The mother of two young children, Lukas, 4, and Gabriella, 14-months, Martin had her first POTS episode at 24 while studying marine biology in graduate school.
“I was setting up an underwater research site in the Keys,” Martin wrote in an email during her twelfth day in the hospital on Wednesday, Oct. 24, “when out of nowhere, I had an extreme bout of tachycardia and felt like I was going to faint for the first time.”
Martin’s primary symptoms at first were bouts of tachycardia, lightheadedness, and fainting.
In 2003, Martin was forced to drop out of graduate school because her symptoms increased in severity and frequency.
Martin, who was studying sponge ecology and growth rate studies in the Keys said, “I was having trouble functioning, and I definitely couldn’t scuba dive anymore to continue my research.”
Martin, who now lives in Virginia Beach, Va., said she was a very active child, teenager and young adult. While she doesn’t know the exact cause of her POTS, she suspects it could have been the result of a spinal fusion in 1999. But, she didn’t develop POTS symptoms until years later.

We are very thankful to see POTS in the news, and especially for a reporter who takes the time to convey accurate information. While I don't see myself as a victim, more of a butt-kicker (so to speak), I am so grateful to have been featured in this!

I encourage you all to reach out to local newspapers! Dysautonomia SOS has a press guide that can help you have your loved one (or yourself) featured locally, and spread the word about POTS and Dysautonomia. This is a great tool for upcoming events, and to make this condition a household name. Contact us if you'd like help!

I'll be back writing more soon, we are in the final stages of editing the new website, which has been taking all of my energy. Love to you all!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Dysautonomia Awareness Month Wrap Up Events!

Well, only a few days are left in the first ever Dysautonomia Awareness Month!  There is still a lot going on, we will end the month with a bang. Here is a quick break down of 2 cool remaining events.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Join the Social Media Dysautonomia Directory!

Hey folks!  Wondering where all those people are online that have dysautonomia? It can feel pretty lonely having a weird condition that no one has heard of, but supposedly a bunch of people actually have! We just have to find each other!

We created a directory you can register for, and include your various social media contact names and handles. You can include as much or as little as you like. We are dividing it up based on location. There will be a page in the new website devoted to this directory.

One of the goals of Dysautonomia SOS (and this blog) is to connect people, so they can share local resources and support. The online community can be a great resource for finding others.

To register, you can click THIS LINK, or fill out the form below:

Subscribe to our Social Media Dysautonomia Directory:

Welcome to the Social Media Dysautonomia Directory! Provide as much or as little info as you like, and find others online that deal with dysautonomia. We will not send emails or contact you with the info provided, this directory serves as a way to connect with people and find support online. As always, be careful to only list info you are comfortable having displayed publicly, and we are not responsible for any interaction on social media taking place. You can remove yourself from the directory anytime.


* indicates required


The Dysautonomia SOS website will be up and running in the next week! Blog posts will resume after that, I have been spending all my time/energy on the nonprofit website, but STOP POTS will remain active and full of the opinions I can't share on an official organization website. 

Oh, and the TWEET-A-THON is next weekend! DINET is on board as well, we are very excited to get #dysautonomia trending on Twitter! Here is a flier you can share where ever you want:


Love to you all, and thank you for the continued support!


Friday, September 28, 2012

POTS: The Basics

I'm re-upping this, as we are almost done with the new nonprofit website, and most of my new "material" will be headed over there.  This a POTS 101 type summary, hopefully easy to understand and useful :)  ---Claire

POTS: An Overview

Postural Tachycardia Syndrome

POTS: The Basics
Find links to in depth information and resources for POTSies at on our Dysautonomia SOS website (under construction).

POTS is short for Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome.   It is referred to by some physicians and researchers as Postural Tachycardia Syndrome, or just Postural Tachycardia.  It is a type of Orthostatic Intolerance, and also a type of Dysautonomia.   Let’s break down what that name means:

Postural means relating to posture, or a change in position.

Orthostatic means relating to, or caused by erect posture (standing up).

Tachycardia refers to a rapid heart rate.

Syndrome means a collection of symptoms, and not a disease.
Technically, a syndrome is defined as a group of signs and symptoms that occur together and characterize a particular abnormality.

So, POTS is a collection of symptoms that result from a heart rate increase when standing up.  When a person with POTS stands up, the heart pumps faster to help keep the blood pressure up, and try to help the blood in their body reach their brain and other vital organs.  The body of a person with POTS does not respond to gravity the same way a non-POTS person does. 

The majority of POTS patients are female, of child bearing age, and under 35.  There are thought to be anywhere from 500,000 to millions of people in the US with POTS and other forms of Orthostatic Intolerance.   There are no solid published statistics or data at this time, these are estimates from the major research centers that treat POTS.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

FIND YOUR POTS CAUSE: Mitochondrial Disease 101 (Guest Post by Hannah!)

Global Mito Awareness Week is September 16-22.  Mito can cause POTS symptoms, and other types of autonomic dysfunction.

"Mitochondrial cytopathies are a diverse group of inherited and acquired disorders that result in inadequate energy production. They can be caused by inheritable genetic mutations, acquired somatic mutations, exposure to toxins (including some prescription medications), and the aging process itself." (1)
I'm very excited to have an amazing POTSy teen that I met and have gotten to know a bit through Facebook offer to write about her probable POTS cause, Mitochondrial Disease. Her name is Hannah, and she just started her Freshman year at UNC Chapel Hill. She is one of the most well spoken and knowledgeable teens, let alone people, I have met - especially regarding her health conditions. She is always willing to answer questions and help others navigate a very confusing set of diseases.  She developed POTS as a young teen, but then her symptoms changed and became more severe, and she was given a tentative Mito diagnosis after numerous positive tests and working with both Mito and POTS specialists.  

by Hannah

The mitochondria are the “power-plants” of the cell—they provide most of the energy a cell needs to function. There are mitochondria in every single cell except for red blood cells. Mitochondrial disease, or ‘mito’ is a genetic and generally progressive problem with the mitochondria. (There is also a concept of “mitochondrial dysfunction”, where there is no gene mutation but the mitochondria don’t work well because of some outside force, such as certain medications or diseases.) The spectrum of severity of mitochondrial disease varies widely, from a baby with Leigh’s Disease who passes away before his first birthday, to the very serious MNGIE, to a woman who gets excessively fatigued and weak as she ages.

Cells have multiple mitochondrian that power the cell through by converting ADP to ATP.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Hydration, Salt, and Peeing: The Renin-Angiotensin-Aldosterone System

I guess I should use the technical name for peeing in this title - urination - but it's a catchier to say pee.  Because that's what many of us POTS folks do (and various other forms of Dysautonomia), we pee A LOT.

Why is this?  And why the heck do we have to eat so much salt?  

Well, there is this thing called the

Renin-Angiotensin-Aldosterone System.


It's a big deal. It takes place mainly in your kidneys and adrenal cortex, and affects your blood pressure directly.  Lets break down the three components:


1. Renin is a protein (enzyme) released by special kidney cells when you have decreased salt (sodium levels) or low blood volume, and stimulates the formation of Angiotensin in blood and tissues. 

2. Angiotensin then undergoes a series of reactions that convert it to Angiotensin II (AII in the diagram below), which in turn stimulates the release of Aldosterone from the adrenal cortex. 

3. Aldosterone is the main mineralocorticoid (steroid hormones that balance electrolytes) hormone secreted by the adrenal cortex, the principal biological activity of which is the regulation of electrolyte and water balance by promoting the retention of sodium (and, therefore, of water) and the excretion of potassium.  In plain English - Aldosterone helps your kidneys retain salt, and therefor retain fluids, helping to keep blood volume and blood pressure up.

Here is a diagram of the entire system.  

Saturday, August 4, 2012

Choose to be Chronically VISIBLE

Alrighty.  Time for an Op-ed.   It may tick some people off. 

I see much posting going on regarding INVISIBLE ILLNESS and spreading awareness by promoting the idea of an illness being invisible.  This term has always bothered me, as I have mentioned before on this blog.  It has the ring of victim/helplessness to me, and I tend to like things that are assertive, proponents for change, and action oriented.

I think the problem here is two fold:
1.  There is no invisible illness, JUST IGNORANCE.  What illness is truly visible?  There are very few compared to vast majority of illnesses, diseases, and conditions that people suffer in silence and try to hide - or that do not cause them to look deformed or like the traditional notion of "ill."  And that traditional notion of illness is what needs to change. By continuing to use the term invisible illness, we are separating ourselves from other people that "look sick," and in my opinion, making the problem worse. 

2.  People find their identity in the "invisible illness" movement, and use it as something to hide behind.  NOT EVERYONE.  I know that is probably not most people's conscious intention.  Many are looking to find a way to spread awareness, which I commend.  But is this how any of us want to be known?  As invisible?  Is this the best way to spread awareness? 

What society sees are deformities and stereotypes.  Not illness.  They see something out of the ordinary and recognize something is "not right" with that person.  This actually has nothing to do with if they are "ill" in some cases.   Is an amputee ill?  Maybe.  Or maybe they are missing a leg, but otherwise are perfectly healthy, and do triathlons.  This is a problem with society, not with those of us who are chronically ill, and we need to address those stereotypes if anything is going to change.   We need to speak about our conditions by NAMING THEM, and being visible, not promoting an image that quite frankly can be a bit whiny sounding at times.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Find Your POTS Cause: The Wide World of Mast Cells (Sourced)

The proposed relationship between POTS and MCAD.
MCAD and Mastocytosis are a confusing set of diseases and conditions.  What aren't  these days?   I'd like to post about a nice, simple, straight forward and easy to understand condition for once, but alas, MCAD is exactly the opposite.

 What are Mast Cells?

Mast cells are cells of the immune system that are found around blood vessels in the skin, gastrointestinal tract, respiratory tract, and genitourinary tract, and are highly associated with nerves. They release chemicals including histamine that are very irritating and cause itching, swelling, and fluid leakage from cells.

"Mast cells are known to be the primary responders in allergic reactions, orchestrating strong responses to minute amounts of allergens. Several recent observations indicate that they may also have a key role in coordinating the early phases of autoimmune diseases, particularly those involving auto-antibodies."

What is MCAD?
As desribed technically, "Mast cell activation disease comprises disorders characterized by accumulation of genetically altered mast cells and/or abnormal release of these cells' mediators, affecting functions in potentially every organ system, often without causing abnormalities in routine laboratory or radiologic testing. In most cases of mast cell activation disease, diagnosis is possible by relatively non-invasive investigation. Effective therapy often consists simply of antihistamines and mast cell membrane-stabilising compounds supplemented with medications targeted at specific symptoms and complications. Mast cell activation disease is now appreciated to likely be considerably prevalent and thus should be considered routinely in the differential diagnosis of patients with chronic multisystem polymorbidity or patients in whom a definitively diagnosed major illness does not well account for the entirety of the patient's presentation."

What does that mean?  In simpler terms - MCAD is a collection of hard to diagnose (because they often don't show up in standard blood work) conditions related to "mast cells behaving badly."  Mast cells are almost everywhere in the body.  When they break down, it is called degranulation, and in MCAD the mast cells do this in a seemingly random way; releasing histamine that the body reacts to, causing all kinds of skin reactions, anaphylaxis (throat closing/itching/blood pressure drops, etc...), and even causing heart rate fluctuations and shortness of breath in some.

MCAD is also called MCA, or MCAS (the "S" stands for syndrome), and the current definitions by the WHO (World Health Organization) are being debated.  Currently because of the WHO definitions of MCAD, it is very hard to get a solid diagnosis, and it is an under-diagnosed and misunderstood condition by many physicians. 

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Webinar Topic Suggestions? Top Researchers Participating!

Hello everyone....

As you know we are starting up our new non profit, Dysautonomia SOS, and we are working with NDRF (National Dysautonomia Research Foundation) on a few projects.

One of these is a series of webinars with some of the top researchers in the field of Dysautonomia from Vanderbilt and Mayo (among others).

What topics would you like to see covered?   We are collecting broad topics, and even specific questions if you have them to get an idea of what is needed by the patient community.

Please comment here, message me, or email me with your suggestions.  More details to come!


And on a side note - we are SO excited about the amazing team that has come together for Dysautonomia SOS!  We have a team of amazing volunteers, Medical Advisers, and all kinds of people contributing to make this a successful and impacting organization - not just in our region, but everywhere.  

If you are interested in sharing your story, volunteering, or getting involved in any way let me know.  

Have a great day!


Saturday, June 30, 2012

Pregnancy and POTS: Experiences & Resources PART 2

In PART 1 of this mini-series, we discussed my first (excellent) POTS pregnancy and the data published regarding having healthy children when you have POTS.  Now on to the tough part of this, as my second pregnancy was a nightmare.  So here's an oversimplified version of what happened, and I'm including some thoughts and links regarding medications at the end.

The Second (NIGHTMARE) POTS Pregnancy:

In December of 2010, I knew something was wrong.  I had been functioning most days for the last few years since my son was born, with fluctuating symptoms that I had been trying to hide from business related folks, and had given up fixing with doctors.  But they were tolerable - episodes of tachycardia, light-headedness, chronic pain and fatigue after working long hours, and severe hypoglycemia.

I was suddenly feeling like I was going drop, and spinning, and my heart rate was nuts.  I was also not retaining any fluids, no matter how much salt loading and drinking I did.  Then I found out I was pregnant right after Christmas, and everything changed.  Within a week, I was sick, bed bound, and knew something was severely wrong. The first week of January was my first trip to the ER after blacking out when I stood up too fast to grab my son (who decided climbing on a counter top was a good idea!), and I couldn't get my heart rate under control after, even laying flat.  This is also when a month+ of vertigo began.  Horrendous vertigo, like I had never before experienced.  

The month of January I was back and forth to the ER and was admitted multiple times.  Then in early Feb I was sent to a rehad/nursing center because I needed constant monitoring, continuous IV fluids, and had a PICC line placed.  Only once the IV fluids were upped did I start to see improvements with the vertigo.  Unfortunately, my PICC line was not cared for, and I developed massive blood clots along the line that were ignored by the staff at the nursing home.  We had to threaten legal action to get me medically released, as the doctor at that horrible place blew me off and thought I was having muscle pain - and was massaging Aspercreme into my clotted area (nice).

After coming home, my nurse was appalled at what I told her and saw the state of my PICC line and sent me to the ER.  We found out I had 5 DVT's and my jugular was completely clotted off. I hadn't been able to turn my neck for days, and they had been rubbing my clotted area at the nursing home, and the clots had broken off and started migrating to various dangerous locations.  I was admitted again to the hospital, but was still blown off when I complained of extreme chest pain and difficulty breathing, and told "it's just your POTS" and sent home after a week.  Well - it was not just my POTS - it was over a dozen bilateral pulmonary embolisms (PE's), plus a 2 cm clot in my right atrium.  Turns out they had sent me home on the wrong dose of Lovanox (a blood thinner) and ignored my OB doctors demands for my clotting factor to be tested.  If I had not kept going back to the ER and demanding they do something or I was going to pull out that stupid PICC line myself, I would have died, along with the baby.  Being pregnant, bed-bound, and having a PICC line is the trifecta of blot clotting risks.  Add to that the fact that they finally tested me for clotting factor conditions, and I came out positive for the Factor V Leiden gene, so basically I was a clot waiting to happen.  It took me almost dying to get the treatment I needed, and even after that - it was a 9 month struggle and fight with the hospital and doctors around here.  That's why I advise people to have a plan in place and a support network of good doctors familiar with your brand of POTS.

Volunteer Positions for Dysautonomia SOS!

We are on our way!  Very excited about the amazing team we have forming for Dysautonomia SOS, the new Non Profit serving VA, DC, MD and beyond.  A formal announcement will be coming soon, but we still need help!  If you or any family/friends are intersted in volunteering, please contact us at  Together, we can make a HUGE difference!

Dysautonomia SOS Volunteer Project List
Dysautonomia SOS is a new Non-Profit organization forming to better serve the VA/DC/MD area’s dysautonomia patients, as well as providing materials for everyone online.  We need your help to get up and running, and start improving the lives and treatment options for patients. 

If you are interested in any of the following projects, please email Claire at   Please use the exact project name to identify what you are interested in.  Feel free to tell us about yourself so we can get to know you as well.  Patients, family, caregivers, and friends are all welcome to volunteer!  Thanks for your interest and support in making this a success!

Physician Listing Coordinators:  Update the physician listings for VA, DC, and MD.  We will need the name, specialty, facility name (if applicable), phone, email, and full address. We are looking to list anyone who treats and has experience with dysautonomia, including primary care/internal medicine doctors.   If you would like to research a specific region, let us know.

Content Editors:   Review materials for the newsletter, web content, brochures, scientific write-ups, and any other content to check for grammar, punctuation, and content accuracy.   

Science Writers and Advisors:  Looking for anyone with a scientific or medical background to help write educational materials for a variety of projects, and review materials periodically.

Newsletter and Feature Contributors:  We will need contributions for our newsletter and web features on a regular basis. Everything from patient stories, to regular columns related to living with Dysautonomia.  Parenting kids with POS, caregiver stories, diagnosis stories, treatment options that have worked for you, etc…

Sponsorship Coordinators:  Collect and research local/regional potential sponsor information.  Anyone providing services that pertain to dysautonomia, or any personal contacts with businesses that would be willing to be a sponsor need to be compiled and eventually contacted.  If you would like to research a specific region only, let us know.

Events/Fundraising Coordinator:  Oversee and aid with local and regional events.  Find creative ways to fundraise for the organizations projects and research we are supporting. Professional event experience preferred.

Accountant/Bookkeeper:  Someone with NPO  to prepare our annual report and help with bookkeeping.

Regional Support Group and Event Hosts:  VA/DC/MD is a large region!  If you would like to host an event or support group in your area, let us know.  Whether it be a Skype meeting, in person, or an official event, we will need as many people as possible helping with this.  

Social Media Coordinator:   Make sure all social media accounts are up to date and the latest news is being shared about our organization in a professional manor.   

Media Blast Brigade:  We need lots of “Re-Tweeters” and “Re-Posters” of important news and announcements across social media.  If you would like to updated on any new happenings or announcements that you can share with your network, send us an email and we’ll keep you posted (so you can re-post!).  This is a VERY important part of our awareness campaign!

General Volunteers:  We will always need volunteers!  Want to be notified when new projects and positions come available?  There a ton in the works.  Email us and we’ll keep you updated!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Pregnancy and POTS: Experiences & Resources PART 1

This is a big issue for women and families affected by POTS, and the topic I get the most questions about.  Being that POTS affects mostly women of childbearing age, and there are very few resources out there, and even fewer research articles, this is not surprising.   I have heard from patients that their doctors are telling them not to have kids, which is heartbreaking, and the science just doesn't back that up for MOST women with POTS.  POTS already robs us of so many things- don't let it rob you of kids (if you want them)!  If you  don't have any life threatening genetic diseases that can be passed on, are not on any medications that keep you alive that would damage a baby, and really want kids - there is no reason not to consider it in my opinion.   It is a very personal decision.  Your underlying cause of your POTS is a HUGE consideration, as well as your functionality and support system.  Of course consult with a doctor about anything medical, as I am not one.

The issue of what drugs to take, how to plan, and what to expect can make for a frightening experience if you don't get as educated as possible on the subject.


Things to consider when planning for the worst:
-Do you have a good medical team of doctors, including a POTS knowledgeable cardiologist, a high risk OB, and possibly a neurologist? 
-Do you have a support network in place in case you are bed bound, non-functional, or severely ill during pregnancy?  Especially if you have other children?
-Do you have a support network in place to help with the baby after you give birth, especially if recovery takes longer than expected or you have complications from birth?
-Are you on any medications that could possibly harm the baby, and are you willing to try and function without them if necessary?
-Do you have any underlying conditions that could further complicate pregnancy, and specialists and support lined up to help deal with those possible complications as well? 

Monday, June 25, 2012

Non-Profit Organization Update: How To Get Involved

I have mentioned on this blog before that I am co-founding a new Non- Profit.  Some things have changed that I wanted to disclose and update you all on.

Back in November or so, I had started putting together thoughts and ideas for a new Non-Profit Organization (NPO) that would help improve the situation across Virginia, the DC area, and MD.  I had big ideas about how to help people avoid what I have gone though for the last 10 years, but knew I could not do it alone, especially from a bed on a laptop.  Part of my vision was uniting all the bloggers and organizations into one happy Dysautonomia awareness family, because everything seems very disjointed and fractured.  Well, Team Fight POTS was birthed out of that, and it has been great to work with other bloggers and activists, and hopefully we have helped people along the way.  Unfortunately, after reaching out to a few non-profits, not many actual organizations are willing to work together it turns out.  Bloggers and frustrated patients, yes - organizations, no.  So I decided I would start my own.

I began with this blog, and Team Fight POTS came shortly after, and in the process met a few folks with the same idea.  Originally we tried to work with an existing NPO, but eventually decided to work together on a completely new NPO, Dysautonomia International, which I have mentioned on here before.   

Unfortunately, after lots of hard work and many hours, I resigned and am no longer working with the group Dysautonomia International for a variety of reasons. We have some irresolvable differing issues and ideas about how to best achieve our goals, and I actually am going back to focusing on VA, DC, and MD.  The situation here for dysautonomia patients is BAD, and there is a massive lack of resources and public knowledge.  That needs to change.  That can not be done with a blog alone.

We already have an amazing group of people to get things started (or continued, actually), and we are filing paperwork and finalizing our web content and team.  More details will follow as they evolve.  My goal has always been to educate educate educate - and empower patients to improve their lives.  

So the new non-profit will be called.....drum roll please........

Dysautonomia SOS: Searching Out Solutions 

The NPO will focus on improving local resources, but will also provide (many free) materials for anyone anywhere with dysautonomia.  Our focus will be on the Orthostatic Intolerance disorders: POTS, NMS/NMH, OI, and OH.  We will provide basic info on the others.  We have BIG PLANS for our region, and helping patients get the treatment they deserve, access to the resources they need, increasing awareness, and raising funds for research.   AND FINDING YOUR POTS CAUSE! We hope to work in conjunction with a nationally focused NPO, and we'll see what happens, and few things are in the works.

We have a great group of volunteers and medical advisers, but are looking for more help.  We are 100% volunteer run, and applying for 501(c)(3) tax exempt status.  We are laying out clear cut ideas and goals so that everyone that volunteers knows where we stand and what we want to achieve.  They include (but are in no way limited to):
  • Focusing on POTS, Syncopal disorders (NMS/NMH, OI, OH), Autonomic Neuropathy, and finding the underlying causes of these disorders.   Providing information of the other forms of dysautonomia and links to resources,
  • Empowering and educating patients, caregivers, medical professionals, and the public by providing credible, medically reviewed educational materials and solutions for everyday life, available for FREE to everyone online,
  • Providing free brochures and access to these materials in doctor’s offices, hospitals, schools, and other applicable public places across the VA/DC/MD region (you will be able to order these materials to print and distribute in your own region outside VA/DC/MD as well), thus increasing public awareness, decreasing diagnosis time, and improving treatment options for dysautonomia patients,
  • Funding research, fellowships, new autonomic equipment, and projects that directly impact and improve the lives of patients in VA/DC/MD, &
  • Working together with the medical community , other organizations, and public to provide support and improve the quality of the lives of dysautonomia patients in our region and around the world.
If you are interested in volunteering, even a small amount of time - please email me for a list of positions and needs we have right now, or if you want to receive updates and info on volunteering as it becomes available.  And you don't have to be in VA/DC/MD or know about Dysauutonmia to get involved!   I still hope to work with the other organizations out there, I really feel like we are such a large patient population, and we need to unite to get things done, especially regarding awareness and research.

This may be wishful thinking, but who knows?

If you would like to apply to be on our Medical Advisory Committee or Board, please email Claire at  Volunteers do not need to be located in VA/DC/MD, as we will be providing services that aim to help and are available to EVERYONE.  


Thursday, June 14, 2012

What is POTS - Really, what is it? REALLY?

Flower POTS
After compiling the big long post that will be broken into a few parts about why you need to find your POTS cause, I wanted to discuss what POTS really is.  

Copper POTS
There is so much confusion and debate between doctors, and amongst people on the support groups and blogs.  

This dude smokes POT(S)

So what in the world is POTS? 

You can print this out and bring it to your doctor if they are unaware, or share with anyone who may be confused on the subject.  I would recommend only printing what is between the lines, not my silly pictures.

The most recent consensus definition of POTS by most of the lead researchers in the field is this:

"4.1. Definition: The postural tachycardia syndrome (POTS) is characterized by a sustained heart rate increment of ≥ 30 beats/min within 10 min of standing or head-up tilt in the absence of orthostatic hypotension. The standing heart rate for all subjects is often ≥ 120 beats/min. These criteria may not be applicable for individuals with low resting heart rates. For individuals aged 12–19 years the required increment is at least 40 beats/min. The orthostatic tachycardia may be accompanied by symptoms of cerebral hypoperfusion and autonomic overactivity that are relieved by recumbency.

4.2. Pathophysiology: The etiology and pathophysiology of POTS are unknown but are likely to be heterogeneous. The syndrome is associated with  deconditioning, recent viral illness, chronic fatigue syndrome and a limited or restricted autonomic neuropathy. The differential diagnosis includes conditions that cause tachycardia, such as thyrotoxicosis, inappropriate sinus tachycardia and other
cardiac rhythm abnormalities, pheochromocytoma, hypoadrenalism, anxiety, dehydration, and medications (e.g., vasodilators, diuretics, and ß-agonists).

4.3. Epidemiology and clinical features: The prevalence of POTS is not known. The syndrome is more common in women. The orthostatic symptoms consist of lightheadedness, visual blurring or tunnel vision, palpitations, tremulousness, and weakness (especially of the legs). Other symptoms include fatigue, exercise intolerance, hyperventilation, shortness of breath, anxiety, chest pain, nausea, acral coldness or pain, concentration difficulties and headaches. On clinical examination, in addition to the heart rate increment, pulse pressure may be reduced and acral coldness may be present. Continued standing may lead to venous prominence, cyanosis and foot swelling. A hyperadrenergic state is present in some patients who have a resting tachycardia, sweating, and tremulousness."

Source: Consensus statement on the definition of orthostatic hypotension, neurally mediated syncope and the postural tachycardia syndrome. Freeman R et al. , Auton Neurosci. 2011 Apr 26;161(1-2):46-8. Epub 2011 Mar 9. 

Here is the complete list of contributors: Roy Freeman, Wouter Wieling, Felicia B. Axelrod, David G. Benditt, Eduardo Benarroch, Italo Biaggioni, William P. Cheshire, Thomas Chelimsky, Pietro Cortelli, Christopher H. Gibbons, David S. Goldstein, Roger Hainsworth, Max J. Hilz, Giris Jacob, Horacio Kaufmann, Jens Jordan, Lewis A. Lipsitz,  Benjamin D. Levine, Phillip A. Low, Christopher Mathias, Satish R. Raj, David Robertson, Paola Sandroni, Irwin J. Schatz, Ron Schondorf, Julian M. Stewart, J. Gert van Dijk


So - that is only what all these various researchers with all the differing definitions of POTS agreed upon.   There are a few big names missing, like Dr.'s Grubb and Mathias, but this seems to be some sort of effort to come to an understanding of the minimum requirements for a POTS diagnosis, and to get the point across that blood pressure (BP) changes are not a requirement, and even includes the statement that POTS only occurs in the absence of a blood pressure drop.  This still confuses me, because my understanding was that you can have POTS and orthostatic hypotension or NMS.  I'm going to hypothesize that they are finding in patients with the drop in BP, it is a sign of something else going on, and doctors need to dig deeper than the typical causes of POTS.  Or that "everyday doctors" that don't specialize in dysautonomia were ruling out POTS without a drop in BP.  I plan to email a few of these doctors for clarification, hopefully someone will respond!

The majority of POTS patients: good looking, young women. Who are told they have anxiety. 


POTS is a syndrome (a collection of symptoms, not a disease).  If someone's heart rate increases at least 30 beats per minute (BPM) when standing, many times above 120 BPM, within 10 minutes, that is POTS.  Some of the symptoms are relieved once laying down, but many are chronic and mimic other conditions.  It has many causes, and affects mostly women.  Certain dangerous conditions that mimic POTS or coincide with POTS need to be ruled out.

POTS does not include, by defintion, any changes in blood pressure, those are separate disorders.  In fact, in the consensus statement, they say that you only have POTS in the absence of a drop in blood pressure.  So if your doctor tries to tell you that you are fine and it's just anxiety because your blood pressure didn't drop, or because you are a young, healthy looking woman, show them the above statement, along with this statement about the difference between anxiety and POTS (and maybe get a new doc!).  

See the post regarding Syncope and Neurally Mediated Syncope for more details on disorders related to dropping blood pressure and fainting.

As a side note - this was the first listing in Google when I typed in POTS, of course from that most reliable of sources, Wikipedia (insert sarcasm):


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
POTS may refer to:
Oh, and this guy IS SO NOT POTS:

Also, here are some POTSies, which came up in my Google search as well:

And if you haven't seen it, here is a PG-13 video I made about the ER experience for a POTSy called "What the hell is POTS?":

Until next time POTSy dudes and dudettes.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Fainting: The Final Frontier ( and Neurally Mediated Syncope)

The final frontier. 
These are the voyages of the vertically impared, set out to reach new heights of embarassment - flashing panties and falling where no one has fallen before. 

(Dooo-do-do-do-duh-duh-dum dhuuuduum!) <----That was Star Trek Next Generation music/refernece for those of you that happen to not be nerds.

So lets talk fainting.  I have been writing furiously for the new Non-Profit I am helping co-found (Dysautonomia International - website coming soon!), and by far the most difficult subject to summarize into a consise, easy to understand format was syncope and NMS (neurally mediated syncope).

So, here is a brief run down on fainting and fainting related dysautonomia disorders.

Syncope = Fainting = Passing out.  This means you have lost consciousness, or have come close and have gotten horizontal in time to prevent the actual faint, otherwise known as "pre-syncope."  This happens because there is not enough blood in your brain.  Many perfectly healthy peeople faint during their life time, and it is a one or two time event - and they have no other health issues causing it or as a result.  Or - it can be a sign of something serious.  There are many types of fainting, the most common being vasovagal, or reflex fainting.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Save the Drama for Your Mama (and the Grinch)

I am fairly new to the Facebook online support community for Dysautonomia and POTS.

This has nothing to do with this post. But I like it.
I have been a member of DINET for years, but stayed away when I was feeling well - it had become depressing and was scaring me that I would end up like others on the forum (ironic, since I now am!).  But the forum was always kind, safe, supportive, and closely monitored - and I feel the people on there are super nice and not the types to attack others who have differing views.  Nothing has changed, if you are looking for smart people to help you navigate resources and deal with dysautonomia, you should check out the forum.  I became active again (it had been so long I had to re-register!) while half dead after all my pulmonary embolisms and in the hospital in early 2011.  I'm glad I did, and I still am on there a few times a week reading and sometimes posting, because it is such a great place to find support.

After getting out the hospital last fall and becoming a Twitter fanatic, and realizing that I was not going to be out running marathons any time soon, I found a whole support network of tweeps as well.   This is another valuable resource for chronically ill of any kind, just pick your disease and search it, and loads of people and tweets come up.  I use #POTS, #Dysautonmia, #spoonie, and #chronicallyawesome the most.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Finding Your Cause: The Project (need your help!)

I am on a "Find your POTS cause" crusade, which I think actually applies to Dysautonomia in general as well.  I have a plan for compiling a large printable sourced guide that you (and I!) can hopefully use to try and navigate the diagnosis process and make it a bit easier.

So this will be a multi- part process, and I need your help!


  • Part 2 will involve adding the appropriate testing for all the causes listed in part 1, and separating this into a new printable guide.  If you are up to helping on this, please contact me!

  • Part 3 will involve personal stories of people living with these diseases, causes, and issues related to POTS.  I'd like to feature a brief (or long if you prefer) write up on a persons journey to getting their cause diagnosis.   PLEASE CONTACT ME TO IF YOU'D LIKE YOUR STORY FEATURED!  Stories of success and hope are needed as well! 


    Thanks everyone, and much of this will hopefully transition over to the new Non Profit I am founding, Dysautonomia SOS.   More details on that coming soon.  Lots of work going on behind the scenes, very exciting stuff!