A British woman who claims she once fainted up to six times a day and would often wake up in the hospital without knowing how she got there says she has finally received a diagnosis that explains her symptoms.
Beth Joyce, 27, told South West News Service (SWNS), a British news agency, that she has postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS). The condition is “characterized by too little blood returning to the heart when moving from a lying down to a standing up position (orthostatic intolerance),” according to Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD).
Fainting, blurred vision, headaches, heart palpitations, weakness, tiredness and sleep disorders are common signs.
“It was really scary because I never knew when it was going to happen and I'd end up banging into things or knocking my head,” Joyce told SWNS. "I didn't want to be out and about in case it happened and I shut myself off completely.”
"On a couple of occasions I fainted in the street and woke up in hospital covered in wires not knowing what was going on,” she added. "That was the scariest thing that has ever happened in my life.”
Joyce, who said she first noticed symptoms of POTS when she was 19, said she went to multiple doctors in the hopes of receiving a diagnosis — but many wrote off her symptoms, she claimed. One reportedly told her that the symptoms were “all in [her] head.”
What’s more, Joyce said she struggled to work due to the condition and was hesitant to leave the house without someone by her side.
“I used to work part-time in an office and I would get home from work and literally go straight to sleep for a few hours, I was completely wiped out,” she said. "I'd only go to places close by with a friend. I couldn't even go to university and missed out on a huge part of my education.” (Joyce later completed her degree, SWNS reported.)
"I started to suffer from depression because it was upsetting," she said, adding that she felt lonely at the time.
At its worst, Joyce said she would sometimes faint up to six times a day, often waking with bruises or suffering a black eye.
Eventually, she was referred to a specialist who, after conducting a series of tests, confirmed she has POTS.
"Being diagnosed with and coming to terms with POTS has been one of the hardest, life-altering things I have ever had to deal with,” she said. "However, it has shown me just how strong I am as a person to come as far as I have despite the daily difficulties that I continue to face.”
Joyce added: "It was a big relief to know it wasn't all in my head and something could be done about it. But it was also terrifying because it was life-altering.”
The cause of POTS is not well understood, and women — typically those between 15 and 50 years of age — are more prone to the condition, though men can also be affected. POTS most commonly occurs “after major surgery, trauma, or a viral illness,” according to GARD. In women, “episodes may also begin after pregnancy and the symptoms may worsen or the number of episodes may increase right before menstruation,” it noted.
It’s not clear what spurred Joyce’s condition.
Joyce has been unable to drive due to POTS because of the chance she could faint while behind the wheel. But, as she continues treatment, she hopes to one day receive her license.
"It would be a huge difference,” she said. "I'd also be able to get to work or to appointments without having to rely on public transport or lifts from my boyfriend.”