People may be at increased risk of debilitating heart disease after a Covid-19 infection, finds a new study published Monday, Dec. 12.
The condition, POTS (postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome), is a nervous system disorder that causes the heart to beat rapidly within 10 minutes of standing up, reports Johns Hopkins Medicine. It is accompanied by worsening symptoms, including headaches and fainting, and studies have suggested that it may be a long illness of Covid.
The study Also, according to a news release about the work involving researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, vaccination against the coronavirus is associated with an increased risk of POTS, albeit “to a small extent.”
Still, “the risk of developing the disease after vaccination remains high after vaccination,” the study Nature Cardiovascular Research is published in a peer-reviewed journal.
The findings come as the U.S. approaches 100 million confirmed cases of Covid-19 since the outbreak began, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as of Dec. 14.
Although a person’s risk of developing POTS was higher three months after receiving the vaccine, it was more than five times higher after contracting Covid-19 than after vaccination, the study found.
Researchers analyzed 284,592 vaccinated individuals and 12,460 people with Covid-19 from 2020 to 2022. Participants were patients at Cedars-Sinai Health System.
“The main message here is that even though we are seeing a possible link between the Covid-19 vaccine and POTS, preventing Covid-19 with a vaccine is still the best way to reduce the risk of developing POTS,” said study leader Dr. Alan C. he said in a statement.
This possible link is “relatively tenuous,” Kwan added.
In the past, POTS developed after a viral illness, trauma, during or after pregnancy, and with other problems such as diabetes or cancer, according to the National Health Service in England.
More on the study and POTS
According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, diagnosing POTS can be difficult because the symptoms involve different parts of the body. Other symptoms include extreme fatigue, brain fog, headache, nausea and vomiting, and tremors.
Another study author and POTS expert, Dr. Peng-Sheng Chen, said in a statement: “In an unexpected but important way, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought greater awareness to POTS—both for patients and providers.”
Among 12,460 patients known to have been diagnosed with Covid-19, those diagnosed with POTS were slightly older, the study found.
Of the 284,592 vaccinated people, 62% received the Pfizer vaccine, 31% received the Moderna Shot, 6.9% received the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, and less than 1% of patients received other vaccines, including AstraZeneca, Novovax and Sinovac, the study found.
For this group, the researchers found that POTS ranked among the top five conditions these individuals experienced after vaccination. Other conditions include myocarditis, dysautonomia, mast cell activation syndrome and urinary tract infection, the study found.
The study authors emphasized that their findings do not mean that the Covid-19 vaccine causes POTS. They called for further investigation as their study was observational.
New cases of POTS following the vaccine have already been reported in the medical literature, according to a paper published in Nature Cardiovascular Research describing the study as being linked to the Gardasil human papillomavirus vaccine.
“As clinicians, we understand that side effects from vaccines can vary in type and severity, although they are generally uncommon,” Kwan said. “We hope that improved information and improved understanding will ultimately improve medical trust and care, as well as communication around vaccines.”
One study limitation is the “generalizability” of the findings because they were limited to Cedar-Sinai Health System patients.
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, between 500,000 and 3 million people had POTS, according to the study.
“Avoiding triggers,” such as standing for long periods of time, exposure to hot and cold temperatures, and drinking alcohol, can help people manage POTS, Chen said.
According to the Mayo Clinic, there is no cure for POTS.