Anybody who knows me knows that Jeopardy! is one of my favorite shows (Rest In Peace, Alex Trebek). Of course, that doesn’t mean that the show never messes up or makes mistakes. Most recently, Jeopardy! released an outdated, inaccurate, and somewhat offensive clue on Monday, June 21, 2021. According to TVLine, the clue referenced postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS), or “Grinch syndrome,” characterizing the underserved condition as one with an overly small heart. However, many within the medical and POTS/dysautonomia community quickly shared that the myth of a smaller heart was inaccurate, and that “Grinch syndrome” was also offensive.
Following the show’s airing, many took to Twitter and other mediums to share their own experiences with POTS – and to address the inaccuracies shared. For example, Twitter user @hystericat1 shared:
POTS has nothing to do with the size of the heart, but rather the autonomic nervous system. “Grinch Syndrome” is offensive to those of us with this condition and is medically incorrect. Do better next time…
Dysautonomia International, a 501(c)(3) non-profit which raises funds and awareness around autonomic nervous system disorders, also spoke up against the clue. Altogether, Dysautonomia International shared a series of tweets surrounding this issue, including a statement about the offensive nature of the term “Grinch syndrome.” In the non-profit’s argument, it questioned whether Jeopardy! would also use offensive terms for multiple sclerosis (MS) or cancer if the terms were deemed “funny.”
On June 22, 2021, Jeopardy! apologized for this mistake via its Twitter account. In its apology, Jeopardy! explained that it had used an outdated and incorrect term for POTS. Altogether, the POTS community seems to appreciate the program’s willingness to listen to criticism and to address its imprecision.
Moving forward, additional research may be done to ensure that similar mistakes do not happen again. In the meantime, POTS awareness has now been brought to the greater conversation, an important part of helping people to understand more about POTS, which affects an estimated 1-3 million Americans.
Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS)
Although it is not considered to be a rare disease or condition, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) is still underserved and somewhat misunderstood. POTS exists under the umbrella of dysautonomia, conditions characterized by autonomic nervous system dysfunction. This condition is considered to be a form of orthostatic intolerance in which patients experience insufficient blood return to the heart when moving into a standing position. As a result, patients experience a high heart rate (over 120bpm or an increase of 30 bpm in adults, or an increase of 40bpm for adolescents) within 10 minutes of standing.
Altogether, there are multiple forms of POTS: neuropathic, hyperadrenergic, hypovolemic, and secondary. Because POTS is not a disease, but a syndrome, there are multiple potential causes. Some patients may begin experiencing POTS-related symptoms following trauma, a viral illness, vaccinations, major surgery, or pregnancy. Conditions like amyloidosis, multiple sclerosis (MS), diabetes, and mast cell activation disorders have also been associated with POTS. However, it is important to stress that POTS is not caused by anxiety, nor is it a panic or anxiety disorder (as it is sometimes misdiagnosed as).
Approximately 80% of those affected are female. Additionally, POTS is often found in those between ages 15 and 50. Symptoms include:
- Rapid heart rate increase
- Heart palpitations
- Hypovolemia (low blood volume)
- “Brain fog”
- Dizziness and/or fainting
- High levels of plasma norepinephrine while standing
- Reddish-purple color in the legs
- Note: This color often appears while standing, but subsides or reduces while reclining.
- Shortness of breath
- Nausea and vomiting
- Abdominal and chest pain
- Tremors and shaking
- Exercise intolerance
- Shaking or tremors
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Coldness or pain in the extremities (often caused by poor blood circulation)
- Sudomotor nerve fiber neuropathy
Want to learn more about POTS? Check out this helpful video and informational page from Dysautonomia International.