The ANS or autonomic nervous system regulate and control various involuntary body functions like breathing rate, heart rate, blood pressure, respiratory rate, perspiration, micturition, salivation and many more. Since ANS works autonomously without the person having control on these processes, disorders in any part of the autonomic nervous system may affect other body parts and processes. Also, ANS disorders are caused due to disorders that destroy autonomic nerves like diabetes or due to some injury by itself. These disorders are sometimes reversible but at other times may be progressive.
ANS comprises of enteric, motor and sensory systems. The motor system can further be divided into the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous system. This system operates by transmitting sensory impulses received from the abdomen, pelvis, heart, blood vessels and from several organs in the chest to various different portions of the brain, mainly to pons, hypothalamus and the medulla. Nerves are the channels used to transmit these impulses. These impulses are result of temperature changes, posture, stress and food intake or body exposures and provide automatic responses without reaching our consciousness through efferent autonomic nerves running in the body causing the required reactions in the vascular system, heart and all the other organs.
Dysautonomia disorders are the result of either reduced or over working of the ANS. Some of the common disorders are the vaccine associated Guillain-Barre syndrome, mitral vein prolapse dysautonomia, CIDP, POTS or postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, pure autonomic failure, Shy Drager Syndrome, neuro-cardiogenic syncope, IBS, panic disorder, PANDA syndrome, CFS or chronic fatigue syndrome, and fibromyalgia.
These disorders are generally inherited. Dysautonomia may also occur along with autoimmune conditions like Pakinson’s disease or alcoholism, diabetes, Sjogren’s syndrome and thyroid disorders. Other infectious agents may also trigger it like PANDA syndrome is seen in children who are regaining health after a bout of streptococcal infection, followed by vaccines as in Guillain-Barre syndrome.
Some of the autoantibodies observed in autoimmune dysautonomia are anti basal ganglia antibodies and ganglionic acetylcholine receptor antibodies.
Generally many symptoms develop, few of which may change eventually. They may either get resolved over some time or can get progressive and chronic. The symptoms differ based on the type of disorder seen. Few of the commonly seen symptoms are fatigue, dizziness, blurred vision, disturbance in motor functions, headaches, depression, anxiety attacks, numbness, exercise intolerance and dizziness while standing or when exerting oneself, gastrointestinal disturbances, hypertension, hypotension and tachycardia. Men may show signs of erectile dysfunction as an early sign of auto disorder. Some people also stop perspiring or sweat less and have a dry mouth and dry eyes with pupils not dilating and narrowing when exposed to different intensity of lights. A person suffering from autonomic syndrome may even suffer from gastro paresis, urinary incontinence, urine retention and constipation problems.
Treatment is different for different types of disorders. It aims to reduce symptoms with pain medications.
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Suite101: Dysautonomia: Disorders of the Autonomic Nervous System