What is it?

Disorders of the autonomic nervous system are conditions in which there is a deviation from or interruption of the normal structure or function of the parasympathetic or sympathetic divisions of the autonomic nervous system. Autonomic dysfunction may be associated with hypothalamic diseases, brain stem disorders, spinal cord diseases, and peripheral nervous system diseases. The autonomic nervous system is a part of the central nervous system that controls involuntary actions, such as the beating of your heart and the widening or narrowing of your blood vessels. When something goes wrong in this system, it can cause serious problems, including blood pressure problems, heart problems, trouble with breathing and swallowing and erectile dysfunction in men. These disorders can occur alone or as the result of another disease, such as parkinson's disease, alcoholism and diabetes. Problems can affect either part of the system, as in complex regional pain syndromes, or all of the system. Some types are temporary, but many worsen over time. When they affect your breathing or heart function, these disorders can be life-threatening.

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Signs & symptoms

Symptoms of disorders of autonomic nervous include impairments of vegetative functions including the maintenance of blood pressure, heart rate, pupil function, sweating, reproductive and urinary physiology (difficulty urinating, leaking urine, frequent urination, erectile dysfunction in men and vaginal dryness in women), and digestion (such as constipation, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting).


Diagnosis is based upon findings from medical history and physical examination. Autonomic testing measures heart rate and blood pressure during changing types of breathing, tilt table test measures heart rate and blood pressure during changes in the posure, Quantitative Sudomotor Axon Reflex Test (QSART). This test measures the function of the nerves that control sweating. Also, a bladder US may be done to check for bladder problems.


Some autonomic nervous system disorders get better when an underlying disease is treated. Often, however, there is no cure. In that case, the goal of treatment is to improve symptoms such as hypotension. Hypotension treatment, for example, usually combines medications such as midodrine and lifestyle changes such as drinking plenty of fluids, adding salt to the diat, wearing compression stockings and changing positions slowly.

☝️ This is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult with your physician before making any medical decision.

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