Dysautonomia is a blanket term that refers to a group of medical conditions associated with the dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system (ANS). Your ANS is the system of nerves that is responsible for your non-voluntary bodily functions, such as sweating, respiration, blood pressure, digestion, sexual arousal, and heart rate. The seriousness of this condition depends on several factors, discussed in more detail below.
How Your ANS Works
To understand dysautonomia, it is important to first understand how your ANS works. Your ANS has three distinct components: sympathetic, parasympathetic, and enteric.
- Sympathetic nervous system – The part responsible for your “fight or flight” response, the sympathetic nervous system activates certain bodily processes that help regulate you during times of stress or danger.
- Parasympathetic nervous system – In contrast to the sympathetic nervous system, the parasympathetic system is responsible for helping your body rest and relax after stressful situations. It is also involved in basic bodily functions essential to your survival, such as digestion.
- Enteric nervous system – The enteric nervous system is the primary system involved in digestion, responsible for the overall function of your gastrointestinal tract.
When dysautonomia occurs, the nerves in your ANS fail to communicate correctly with your body. As a result, you may experience many uncomfortable symptoms or even develop other medical conditions.
What Causes It?
There is no primary cause of dysautonomia, as it is something that can be experienced differently from person to person. It can occur freely on its own or as a result of other disorders and conditions such as alcoholism or diabetes. There are also some events that could cause symptoms associated with dysautonomia, such as stress, dehydration, constricting clothing, and hot climates.
It’s also critical to note that both the sympathetic and parasympathetic nerve systems can’t work well without vitamin D. People with dysautonomia often have a group of symptoms, such as headaches, heart and stomach problems, and oxidative stress, which could all be caused by low amounts of vitamin D.
Is It Serious?
Dysautonomia occurs at different levels; it can be a temporary, mild condition or a serious lifelong illness. The severity of your dysautonomia symptoms will depend on many individual factors, such as the type of dysautonomia you have, as well as your own medical history. Different types of dysautonomia are as follows:
- Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) – increased heart rate that occurs when standing up
- Neurocardiogenic syncope (NCS) – the most common type of dysautonomia, characterized by fainting spells that occur from frequent drops in blood pressure
- Familial dysautonomia (FD) – a serious yet rare genetic disorder that affects the survival and development of certain nerve cells
- Autonomic dysreflexia – when the autonomic nervous system overreacts to input in a way that isn’t normal; a dangerous medical problem that can raise your blood pressure to a dangerous level and, when combined with a slow heartbeat, can cause a stroke or seizure
- Multiple system atrophy (MSA) – a rare condition associated with progressive nerve cell damage in the brain, which can disrupt normal bodily processes, including breathing, digestion, bladder control, balance, and mobility
- Baroreflex failure – a rare disorder involving fluctuating blood pressure, often reaching dangerously high levels (severe hypertension)
Get a Dysautonomia Diagnosis With Dr. Groysman MD
The first step in treating your dysautonomia symptoms is to get the appropriate diagnosis. There are various treatments now available to help you cope with dysautonomia, so it no longer has to be a life-inhibiting condition. To explore dysautonomia diagnosis and treatment, book a visit with Southwest Pain Management today.