The severe condition surfacing among some COVID-19 long-haulers

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A little-known yet serious autonomic nervous system disorder is surfacing among an unknown number of COVID-19 long-haulers, or people who experience persistent or worsening symptoms long after the infection has cleared, Kaiser Health News reported June 1.

The condition, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, affects the blood flow, and can disrupt the ability to regulate vital bodily functions, such as heart rate and blood pressure. Symptoms include lightheadedness when standing, a rapid increase in heart rate and fatigue. There are no federally approved drugs for the conditions, though specialists use a variety of medications to manage symptoms. 

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, there were an estimated 3 million people in the U.S. with the condition. With just 75 board-certified autonomic disorder physicians in the country, it was already difficult to find a specialist for POTS and chronic fatigue syndrome, which have overlapping symptoms, KHN reports. 

Due to the lack of such specialists, it's not uncommon for people with these conditions or symptoms to wait months to get an appointment for care or an official diagnosis — an issue that's likely been exacerbated with POTS emerging among post-COVID-19 patients. 

Currently, most physicians with expertise in POTS are seeing COVID-19 long-haulers with the condition, and most post-COVID-19 patients with CFS also have POTS, Peter Rowe, MD, a researcher who has specialized in autonomic nervous system disorders for 25 years, told KHN


Specialists and people with POTS are now hoping the National Institutes of Health's $1.5 billion research effort on post-COVID-19 conditions will lead to progress in physician awareness and treatment of POTS and other autonomic disorders.

 

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