A blood-flow disorder called postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome is the subject of many diagnostic errors, according to various studies. One says that the average POTS patient sees seven doctors in four years before getting a POTS diagnosis. Another says that nearly half of POTS patients, including in West Virginia, are initially thought of as having a psychiatric disorder.

POTS is a disorder of the autonomic nervous system, which controls involuntary movements like blood pressure, heart rate and digestion. Little is known about it, but it’s characterized by orthostatic intolerance, a circulatory problem that arises when patients stand up after having lied down. Too little blood goes to the heart, leading to increased heart rate and symptoms like fatigue, dizziness and nausea.

It is understandable that POTS would be so frequently misdiagnosed. Its symptoms do resemble those of depression or anxiety, and it occurs mostly in women, who are more vulnerable to depression. Not only that, but the majority of patients are also young women who are otherwise in good physical health.

Still, errors could be avoided with better education. One to three million Americans suffer from POTS, so it’s not necessarily a rare disorder. Unfortunately, no single medical treatment exists for it, and even its cause is unknown, though events like surgery or pregnancy can trigger symptoms.

Under medical malpractice law, those who are injured as a result of a diagnostic error may be eligible for compensation. This could include reimbursement for all medical expenses, lost wages, a diminished capacity to work, pain and suffering and loss of consortium. Malpractice cases sometimes end in million-dollar settlements, but because they’re so high-profile, one can be sure that one will face strong opposition from the defendant. Having a lawyer may be of great benefit, then, especially during negotiations.