The autonomic system of a person is responsible for controlling several basic functions of the human body that includes heart rate, body temperature, breathing rate, digestion, and sensation. Auto dysfunction develops when the nerves of your autonomic system get damaged. The dysfunction can range from mild to seriously life-threatening. An autonomic nervous system disorder can occur alone or from another disease such as Parkinson’s disease, diabetes, and cancer. There are different types of autonomic system disorders, and symptoms are different for each of them. In many cases of such disorders, the symptoms are not visible and occur internally. When things go wrong with the autonomic system, it can cause severe problems like blood pressure problems, heart problems, trouble breathing, and sexual dysfunction.
Symptoms of Autonomic Disorders
Symptoms like sweating abnormalities, dizziness, constipation, bloating, or sexual difficulties can indicate such disorders. Other symptoms of autonomic disorders might include:
- Chest pain
- Low blood pressure
- Disturbance in vision
- Mood Swings
- Frequent Urination
- Poor appetite
- Disrupted sleep
Depending on the underlying cause, you might experience some or all of the symptoms mentioned above.
Types of autonomic disorders
Autonomic disorders can vary when it comes to symptoms and severity, and they stem from different underlying causes. Some of the autonomic disorders can be sudden and seriously damaging to one’s health. However, these disorders are manageable and reversible.
Orthostatic hypotension is a sudden drop in blood pressure of a human body, and it occurs when a person stands and leads to blood pressure level getting lower. This can decrease the blood supply to the brain, and the person ultimately feels dizzy and might get faint. Orthostatic hypotension can cause the sufferer to experience fatigue, sores in the back or neck, vision problems, and shortness of breath. The causes of such disorders can be dehydration, hot environments, or standing for a long period. Older adults may get faint or fall down, and such conditions put them at risk for bone fractures, strokes, or decreased blood supply to the brain. This type of orthostatic hypotension can be helped by lifestyle changes, prescriptions, or medications. The symptoms of this disorder might respond to an elevation of the person’s head, drinking fluids, adding salt to the diet, or taking proper medications prescribed by a specialized healthcare provider. Also, therapy and other methods can help improve nerve functions.
Postprandial hypotension is referred to a suddenly lowered blood pressure after taking a meal. The blood pressure changes and might get dropped suddenly when you’re digesting the food. Symptoms of the disease include dizziness or fainting for about 15 minutes after taking the meal. Usually, adults are experienced with autonomic nervous disorders. As the digestion process occurs, extra blood is delivered to the stomach and intestine that causes a faster heartbeat. This helps in the maintenance of blood pressure and flow in your body. However, people suffering from postprandial hypotension may experience a heartbeat that is not as fast as required causing the blood pressure to drop.
Multiple System Atrophy
Multiple System Atrophy is a lethal form of autonomic function disorder. The disorder has symptoms that are quite similar to Parkinson’s disease. The autonomic disorder affects men and women in their old age and rapidly progresses over five to ten years. There are two commonly known types of the condition. These include the cerebellar type and Parkinsonian type. The diagnosis and of a person depends on the symptoms. A person suffering from Parkinson’s type Multiple System Atrophy can have stiffness, tremors, or problems with balance. In comparison, people with cerebellar type might experience loss of coordination, difficulty swallowing, eye problems, or speech problems. This condition is most likely to progress rapidly than the former one. A person suffering from the disease eventually experience worse health conditions that they need aid for walking, a wheelchair, or a cane.
Pure Autonomic Failure
This type of autonomic disorder is a rarely known degenerative disorder that causes a person to experience orthostatic hypotension, decreased sweating ability, increased blood pressure when lying down, and gastrointestinal changes. This type of disorder can affect men more than women and is often found in the middle to old-aged adults.
Afferent Baroreflex Failure
Afferent baroreflex failure is the autonomic disorder that results in blood pressure fluctuations caused due to malfunction of pressure-sensing blood pressure nerves responsible for conveying information to one’s brain. Consequently, blood pressure fluctuates between being too low and too high. This type of disorder is accompanied by symptoms like dizziness, headaches, and sweating. These conditions are experienced by the person when blood pressure sensing nerves get damaged. People having strokes can experience such conditions. Also, it can result from hereditary disorders that badly impact the blood pressure sensing nerves.
Familial Autonomic Disorder
Familial Autonomic Disorder is the type of autonomic disorder that affects very few people. People suffering from this disease often experience unstable blood pressure that either too low or too high. The sufferers may experience reduced sensitivity to pain and an absence of tears while crying. Some symptoms associated with the disorder include difficulty swallowing, vomiting, poor muscle function, overproduction of saliva, or excessive sweating. People suffering from the illness may develop chronic breathing problems. Also, there may be vision problems due to continuous damage to the optic nerves of a person. The treatments for this illness are aimed at reducing symptoms so that a person’s autonomic nervous system effects are balanced well.
Other types of autonomic disorder can result from diseases or damage to one’s body. The nerves of a person get damaged due to an illness, injury, or particular medications. Some diseases causing the illness include uncontrolled high blood pressure, diabetes, heavy drinking or some autoimmune diseases.
Treatment and Support
The autonomic diseases are treated by addressing the symptoms, and when diagnosed, a complete treatment plan and medication should be offered to get it under control as soon as possible. Also, getting proper support is greatly helpful to cope with autonomic dysfunctions as it helps with the improvement of one’s quality of life and overall health of a person.