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 nervous system or parasympathetic nervous system or both. The symptoms of dysautonomia can affect every system in the body, sometimes in unpredictable ways. Symptoms may be mild or 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 symptoms permanently or in some cases recover.

 

There are many different types of dysautonomia, including Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS), Neurally Mediated Syncope (NMS), Orthostatic Intolerance (OI), Autoimmune Autonomic 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. (1)

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 conditions such as Ehlers-Danlos Syndromes, Marfan Syndrome, Chiari Malformation, Mast Cell Activation Disorder, Autonomic Neuropathy, Multiple Sclerosis, Parkinson's Disease, Diabetes, Celiac Disease, Sjögren'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)

  • Widely fluctuating Blood Pressure, high or low. 

  • 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 Gastrointestinal 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.

 

 

 

 

 

References:

 

1.  Johns Hopkins Medicine. (2020). Dysautonomia Conference. 

               https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/radiology/news-events/dysautonomia.html

Additional Resources: 

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (2019, March 27). Dysautonomia information page. Retrieved June 6, 2020, from https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Dysautonomia-Information-Page

Cleveland Clinic. (2015, August 11). Dysautonomia. Retrieved June 6, 2020, from https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/6004-dysautonomia

Merck Manuals Professional Edition. (2020). Overview of the autonomic nervous system. Retrieved June 6, 2020, from https://www.merckmanuals.com/professional/neurologic-disorders/autonomic-nervous-system/overview-of-the-autonomic-nervous-system

 
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