shortnessofbreathAsk Dr. Santa Maria: I’m a POTS Patient—what is causing my shortness of breath?

NOTE: This should clearly be evaluated first by a physician—in person.

That is because the list of possibilities for why you are having shortness of breath is a long one. Possibilities include, but are not limited to: allergies, asthma, anemia, heart valve or other heart-related issues, medication side-effects, chest wall and respiratory muscle fatigue, and decreased lung volume conditions. What a patient comes to me complaining of shortness of breath or dyspnea (as we call it) my first thoughts are: is this a fault of the lungs or a problem with the heart? If neither of these areas seems to be malfunctioning – that is when I can begin to look elsewhere for the source of your problems?

What steps should a POTS patient take when they are experiencing shortness of breath?

A P.O.T.S patient who is short of breath should have a doctor who is familiar with the patient’s body and past symptoms to see if there is a possible correlation.

It is critical to know the patient’s breathing history, whether or not they have asthma or a pet-related lung disease, what medications they are on, what their blood count and symptoms are that might have led to this this complaint.

They also should look to see whether the patient is cyanotic (fingertips turning blue, lips getting dusky.) If this is the case, they should immediately be forwarded to the emergency room. If they look at their palms or bend back their fingers and look at the creases and the color is red—they are probably getting enough oxygen into their system and the danger is probably not so immediate. Still—they should alert someone to keep a close eye on them, at least until the feeling subsides.

Disclaimer: Even though this information is coming from a qualified medical professional, it should not be taken as a personalized diagnosis or treatment plan. POTS patients in particular tend to have multiple medical issues including secondary diagnoses of Mast Cell and Ehlers Danlos Disease. Please discuss this information with your doctor for a more personalized approach.  Read our full disclaimer here.

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