What is Dysautonomia?

Dysautonomia refers to a group of neurological disorders in which the autonomic nervous system (ANS) has become dysregulated. This can involve the failure of either the sympathetic system or parasympathetic system, or both. The symptoms of dysautonomia can affect every system in the body, sometimes in unpredictable ways. Symptoms may be mild or disablingly debilitating. They also may wax and wane in intensity, or be unremitting. Depending on the type of dysautonomia and its cause, patients may deal with conditions permanently or in some cases recover.


There are many different types of dysautonomia, including Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), Neurocardiogenic Syncope (NCS), Orthostatic Intolerance (OI), Gastroparesis (GP), Autoimmune Ganglionopathy (AAG), Pure Autonomic Failure (PAF), Multiple System Atrophy (MSA), and more. While some specific types are rare, dysautonomia itself is not. Over 70 million people in the world are living with one or more forms of dysautonomia. 

In some cases, otherwise healthy patients can develop dysautonomia or the cause may be unknown. There are also patients who develop dysautonomia secondary to another underlying condition such as Ehlers-Danlos Syndromes, Marfan's Syndrome, Chiari MalformationMast Cell Activation Disorders, Autonomic Neuropathy, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson's, Diabetes, Celiac Disease, Sjogren's Syndrome, Mitochondrial Disorders, and more. Patients whose dysautonomia is caused by an underlying condition are more likely to deal with symptoms to some degree indefinitely. However, when possible, treating the underlying condition can sometimes improve patients' symptoms of dysautonomia.

There is currently no cure for dysautonomia, but ongoing research is building a better understanding of many forms of dysautonomia and offering new hope. Proper medical care and patient education can help those affected by dysautonomia better manage their condition and improve their quality of life. 

Symptoms of Dysautonomia often include:

  • Bradycardia (Abnormally Low Heart Rate) or Tachycardia (Abnormally High Heart Rate)

  • Extremely Low Blood Pressure

  • Narrow Pulse Pressure

  • Frequent, Large Swings in Heart Rate or Blood Pressure

  • Orthostatic Intolerance or Exercise Intolerance

  • Frequent Bouts of Dehydration

  • Chronic Fatigue

  • Heart Palpitations 

  • Dizziness or Vertigo

  • Syncope (losing consciousness) or Near Syncope 

  • Low Blood Volume

  • Frequent Nausea and GI Motility Issues

  • Difficulty Swallowing

  • Chest Pain

  • Shortness of Breath

  • Frequent Migraines or Headaches

  • Hypersensitivity to Light, Sound, Touch, or Smell

  • Difficulty Regulating Temperature 

The DSN Patient Handbook (PDF) is a comprehensive guide developed by our team of medical professionals who personally live with one or more forms of Dysautonomia. The guide will help you better understand your diagnoses, find medical providers, and develop a treatment plan. It also includes helpful resources, support options, and advice.

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