What is Dysautonomia?
Dysautonomia (or Autonomic Dysfunction) is a failure of the autonomic nervous system to regulate the body’s unconscious or automatic functions. The autonomic nervous system (ANS) regulates everything that your body does outside of your conscious control. You don’t have to think about breathing, regulating your blood pressure, maintaining your body temperature, beating your heart, digesting your food, regulating your metabolism, hormone production, swallowing, sweating, or even blinking your eyes. In fact the majority of what goes on in your body is out of your conscious control.
Symptoms of Autonomic Dysfunction
- Dysautonomia is much more common in females than males.
- It is often triggered by the onset of puberty, and many (but not all) patients who develop Dysautonomia during puberty improve during their late teens or early twenties. Pregnancy can also trigger Dysautonomia, and women with Dysautonomia often experience changes in their symptoms centered around their menstrual cycles.
- A few known causes include Neuropathy, Autoimune Disorders, Lyme Disease, Ehlers-Danlos syndrome, Mitochondrial Disease, Parkinson’s disease, Multiple System Atrophy, Diabetes, Alcoholism, Physical Trauma, Spinal Cord Injury, Brain Injury, and Viral Illness. Although many patients never find out the cause of their Autonomic Dysfunction.
- There is no “cure” for Autonomic Dysfunction, but many symptoms can be managed, and secondary forms of Dysautonomia may improve with treatment of the underlying cause or disease.
- Dysautonomia is not rare, it is rarely diagnosed. It is still often considered a rare or unusual condition, simply because of lack of awareness.
For more information see Dysautonomia International
What is POTS?
POTS stands for Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome. POTS is usually a form of Autonomic Dysfunction, essentially upon changing from a supine position to an upright position, the blood drains to the lower half of the body. When a person stands up their ANS should compensate by telling blood vessels to constrict pushing the blood to the brain, instead the ANS fails to do this and the blood vessels are too dilated. Blood drains to the lower half of the body causing the heart to race, hypoperfusion (lack of blood) to organs in the upper parts of the body, and blood pooling.
The hallmark symptom of POTS is an increase in heart rate of more than 30 beats per minute (or a heart rate greater than 120 beats per minute) within 10 minutes of head up tilt. This may or may not be accompanied by a fall in blood pressure known as Orthostatic Hypotension, some POTS patients experience no change in blood pressure, or an increase in blood pressure instead.
Symptoms of POTS along with Orthostatic Hypotension include:
Pre-syncope (near fainting)
Excessive thirst (polydipsia)
Chest pain and discomfort
Shortness of breath
Brain fog (or other cognitive problems).
Headache, nausea, abdominal pain, or even vomiting after standing or physical exertion.
Patients obviously often experience a wide range of additional symptoms due to Autonomic Dysfunction. For general symptoms of Autonomic Dysfunction please see one of the Dysautonomia symptom links above.
For more information on POTS, see the links below.