Dysautonomia accounts for the title of a group of medical conditions; that relate to the problems with the autonomic nervous system. It is known to exist and manifest in 70 million people worldwide. People living with various forms of this condition are resilient as they navigate life often feeling lightheaded, fainting; unstable in blood pressure, irregular; and abnormal heart rates, malnutrition, and other symptoms as well, and in severe and helpless cases, death.
That is why raising awareness and educating one another is the least we can do to take part in their suffering; as well as, those who are suffering; be it undiagnosed or diagnosed, will get to know their condition further; and understand it better. In this article, we are going to explore everything about Dysautonomia.
Dysautonomia is the general term that is used in labelling the number of varying medical conditions; that are causing a malfunction in the Autonomic Nervous System. Our Autonomic Nervous System; in its optimal and normal condition controls the “automatic” functions of our body that we do not have to consciously think about. This goes for heart rate, blood pressure, dilation, digestion, and constriction of the pupils of our eye; together with the kidney function, sexual function as well as controlling of our temperature.
And if you are suffering from Dysautonomia, these automatic systems are being disrupted and you really cannot regulate them normally. As it is not rare, people of any age, gender, or race can be affected. There is no definitive cure for it, given this day and age but the Dysautonomia International is always working on their research to innovate the treatments; and to hopefully find a cure for each form of Dysautonomia.
Dysautonomia can be mild to serious with regards to its severity and in some cases, it is indeed known to be fatal; that is why medical consultation is needed to treat this condition. Lastly, given the high occurrence of Dysautonomia; most patients are not being aware of their condition; as most of them take years to be diagnosed because of a lack of awareness amongst the public and the medicinal community. Surely enough, we can now add to the body of knowledge with regards to this condition.
Symptoms of Dysautonomia
As Dysautonomia manifests in several different forms, the symptoms patients feel might be different from one another. Also, the interval of the symptoms may happen some of the time; then go away completely for some time, and go back again. Some of the symptoms may also appear when you are in a lot of physical; and emotional stress but also can take place when you are perfectly calm and seemingly normal to function. Some symptoms may be forbearing in some patients, in others; can be damaging enough that it interferes constantly in their lifestyle.
A common sign of Dysautonomia that occurs to every patient is orthostatic intolerance; which means that a patient diagnosed with Dysautonomia cannot stand up for too long without having to experience visual disturbance; dizziness, or fainting.
Here is the comprehensive list of Dysautonomia’s symptoms that may vary from person to person; may vary in an interval of time, and may vary with regards to pain and discomfort level.
- Inability to balance themself while standing and walking
- Being sensitive to light and noise
- Having trouble on their breathing
- Having to deal with chest discomfort and pain
- Dizziness, lightheadedness, and vertigo
- Unstable body and skin temperature
- Feeling lethargy, or low energy
- Blurred vision and other visual disturbance
- Difficulty in swallowing
- Nausea, vomiting, and constipation
- Unstable heart rate, heart palpitations
- Brain fog, inability to stay focused in long periods of time, and forgetfulness
- Body weakness
- Mood swings
- Sweating less than what the normal rate is or not sweating at all
- Migraines or frequent headaches
- Dehydration, because of frequent urination and intolerance
- Erectile dysfunction
- Low blood sugar
- Exercise intolerance wherein heart rate cannot keep up with changes in physical activities
- Sleeping problems, insomnia
- Alcohol consumptions
- Physical and mental stress
- Tight clothing
- Hot environments
Eight Types of Dysautonomia
There are eight known types of Dysautonomia, and the comprehensive list and overview area as follows:
Neurocardiogenic syncope (NCS)
This is considered to be a condition that is self-recovering and is caused by an abnormal; or excessive autonomic response to certain body triggers or stimuli. This is a fainting spell that takes place when the body overreacts to certain triggers, such as intense emotion, the sight of blood, dehydration, extreme heat; long periods of standing; or physical pain. The triggers are causing the patient’s heart rate; and blood pressure to drastically change suddenly and the blood may pool in the legs. This leads to reduced blood flow in the patient’s brain; that in result will cause a brief episode of losing consciousness.
Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS)
This mainly affects the patient’s blood flow; that in result causes lightheadedness, fainting, and heightened uncomfortable, rapid increase in heartbeat, which comes up when standing up from a reclining position and will be relieved by sitting or lying back down. In addition, they might also include symptoms of brain fog, fatigue; intolerance to exercise, migraine, visual disturbance, heart palpitations, tremors, and nausea.
This is known to be a disorder revolving around that affects the development and survival of definite nerve cells. It disturbs cells in the autonomic nervous system; which is why symptoms of it are difficulty in digestion, breathing, production of tears; and disturbance in regulating blood pressure and body temperature. It also affects the sensory nervous system and can disrupt the taste and perception of heat and cold environments. Moreover, it worsens pain tolerance.
Multiple system atrophy (MSA)
MSA is validated to be a progressive neurodegenerative disorder that combines symptoms; that take place in our autonomic nervous system and our movement. It includes fainting spells, and problems with heart rate, erectile dysfunction, as well as bladder management. Motor impairments revolve around the loss of or limited muscle movement and control; difficulty in mobility and also tremor, rigidity, and loss of muscle coordination. Moreover, the patient might encounter difficulty in speech and walking.
Pure autonomic failure (PAF)
This is known to be a neurodegenerative disease of the autonomic nervous system of our body. Orthostatic hypotension is its main problem. Symptoms of it are dizziness, lightheadedness as well as visual disturbance, weakness, lethargy, abnormal sweating, sleep disorders, constipation; and bladder problems. The symptoms brought by PAF can also be a gateway to having to develop Parkinson’s disease, dementia, and multiple system atrophy.
Autonomic dysreflexia (AD)
This is a medical condition which is manifested by a sudden onset of excessively high blood pressure. This is commonly seen in people who have suffered spinal cord injuries that involve their thoracic nerves being damaged. Its symptoms are a pounding headache, red blotches on the skin, excessive sweating, nausea, slow heart rate, nasal stuffiness; and cold and clammy skin.
This is a medical condition referring to the cardiovascular problems; that result from the damages and disruption of the afferent limb of the baroreflex. Its symptoms are acute or fluctuating hypertension, excessive sweating and a heart rate that does not respond to some medication; as well as severe episodes of bradycardia and hypotension. It can be a result of complications in surgeries, radiation treatment in cancers, injury to the nerves; or degenerative neurologic disease.
Diabetic autonomic neuropathy (DAN)
This is a serious and most common complication of being diabetic. This causes resting tachycardia, erectile dysfunction, impaired neurological function, decreased mobility, constipation as well as hypoglycemic autonomic failure.
The main diagnosis of Dysautonomia takes place in conducting Tilt Table Test. This procedure goes by the following:
The patient will lie on a table that can lift and be lower at different angles. The table will support the feet.
- The patient is connected to several medical pieces of equipment that ought to measure the patient’s blood pressure, oxygen levels, and heart’s electrical activity
- Moving forward the table will tilt upwards, and medical equipment will measure how the patient’s body regulates the autonomic nervous system functions.
- The medical experts will yield conclusions and official diagnoses once all the irregularity of ANS’s functions is seen, and validated.
Other tests that do just the ability Tilt Table Test in diagnosis are sweating tests, breathing tests, blood tests, and electrocardiography.
Causes of Dysautonomia
Dysautonomia manifests when the nerves in our Autonomic Nervous System do not communicate on other parts of the body as the ones normally should. This malfunction borns the condition and the symptoms. It is also caused by autonomic neuropathy or the damage in the peripheral nervous system that is responsible for information flow on our brain; and spinal cord. Aside from that, central autonomic disorders such as multiple system atrophy can cause dysautonomia to manifest. The condition can also be hereditary, some of the forms are limited; but there is also rare and completely devastating that affects the Jewish population.
Dysautonomia does not go away, it does not have a definitive cure, it can only be managed and it can only get worse with respect to how the person experiencing this treats his or her condition, as well as how he or she lives her lifestyle, and what outlook does he or she have.
Treatment and Management of Dysautonomia
As we all know, there is no definitive cure present in Dysautonomia; and Dysautonomia Research is still persistent and persevering in technological and medicinal advances; that will improve the medicines that can eliminate the condition. Nevertheless, there are treatment plans and management that can improve the symptoms of the condition. The treatment and management plan are aiming to reduce symptoms enough; that the patient diagnosed can live its life as normal as possible with their body gaining strength.
The treatment and management plan is unique to every patient; concerning the kind of Dysautonomia the patient is diagnosed with; and it entails specific details for the patient’s unique set of symptoms. Generalization is discouraged as Dysautonomia is unpredictable and tricky to a person; it must adhere and approach as seriously as possible.
The treatment and management plan includes physical therapy, exercise therapy, counseling, lifestyle modification, and medications. In order to promote holistic healing; and the right physical and mental coping mechanisms and in building a lifestyle in tune with the condition. A range of doctors can be involved in the treatment; and management plan, including cardiologists, neurologists, and physicians with specialties in the autonomic nervous system.
They are also encouraged to drink two to four liters of water per day; with an increased daily intake of salt and strong discouragement to caffeine, sugary foods and drinks, and alcohol consumption. As well as sleeping with the head being six to ten inches higher than the body.
These, all in all, have been proven to significantly change those who are living with Dysautonomia, treatment; and management plans are indeed necessary; as testimonies validate how well patients are diagnosed after sticking into one. It may not be a definitive cure; but it is almost the same as that; just making sure that the patient is abiding by his plan regularly and taking all the precautions seriously.
Who Are at Risk of Having Dysautonomia?
It is known that a Jewish person of Eastern European heritage significantly has a higher risk for Dysautonomia, specifically Familial Dysautonomia. For those who have a family member who has Dysautonomia; as it can be hereditary as well according to medical evidence.
Dysautonomia can occur on its own, without the presence of other diseases, and this is what we called Primary Dysautonomia. However there is a comprehensive list of diseases that heightened the risk of having dysautonomia; and they are labeled as Secondary Dysautonomia.
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Muscular sclerosis
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- Sjogren syndrome
- Crohn’s disease
- Celiac disease
- Chiari malformation
- Charcot-Marie-Tooth disease
- Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
- Guillain-Barre syndrome
- Lambert-Eaton syndrome
- Ehlers-Danlos syndrome
- Vitamin B and E deficiencies
- Lyme disease
What Should People Diagnosed With Dysautonomia Expect in Their Condition?
No one can really tell and know accurately what the lives of the people living with Dysautonomia look like, as the severity and interval of symptoms are generally unique to each person. The course of their condition is unique to themselves only, some symptoms are always present, some appears for weeks, months and years, disappear for an indefinite period then reappear again. In other words, living with Dysautonomia is innately unpredictable.
The only things the person suffering with it has control of are their treatment and management plan, their lifestyle, and their overall outlook and approach on this condition.
Lifestyle Changes to Better Live With Dysautonomia
There are lifestyle changes that are proven to improve the severity and frequency of Dysautonomia symptoms. With this information, we can conclude that lifestyle changes are just as important as the medical treatment plan and management. As our lifestyle provides the direction on how we ought to live our lives. A healthy lifestyle correlates to having a healthy life, and a holistically healthy state of the body.
Here is the comprehensive list of lifestyle changes to incorporate for people living with dysautonomia
You must not smoke or drink alcoholic beverages.
As smoking does not have any benefits to our body, it also contributes to worsening the symptoms or can cause a certain symptom to arise and manifest. As with drinking, it can cause the worst episodes of dizziness, fainting, vertigo, and migraines.
Adhere to drinking two to four liters of water every day.
Better, carry a water bottle with you all the time. Water helps you to stay hydrated at all times, and combat symptoms of dehydration, brain fog, fainting, and weakness. Significantly, it increases blood volume.
Add extra manageable salt to your diet.
This helps lock the water in your body instead of excessively losing it. A maximum of 4-5 grams per day is highly recommended, as going overboard with salt will produce another problem, which is kidney stones. More importantly, being the same, it increases blood volume.
Eat healthy foods, adhere to a balanced diet.
A balanced diet supplies a lot of vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants that are not just beneficial to your autonomic nervous system, but to all the remaining systems of your body. Moreover, it can help with problems with constipation, digestion, and overall maintaining a good gut and stomach health. Regardless of whether you have a condition or not, generally, this advice is given because of how beneficial and healthful it is.
Maintain sleep hygiene.
This provides familiarity and can minimize sleep disruption symptoms. It also is generally healing and promotes repair not just in our autonomic nervous system, but with all the other systems of our body. Moreover, it decreases episodes of discomfort, anxiety, and stress. It keeps your energy level and productivity high as well.
Take frequent breaks when your body is telling you something.
If your body is tired, take a break, if you are feeling a little dizzy, take a nap, if you are feeling thirsty, get your water bottle. Listen and supplement what your body needs at the moment.
When standing up, always use support and do it slowly. This is to mitigate sudden loss of consciousness, fainting and dizziness.
Avoid sitting or standing for long intervals of time.
As soon as you feel an ache or tiredness kicking, change your position. This will help you to not frequently lose consciousness, and to be attentive in what activity you are engaging in, moreover, it promotes mindfulness.
Do not go in an extremely humid environment.
As much as possible, avoid heat as it triggers nausea, dizziness, and breathing problems, moreover, dehydration and when taking a bath, you should have lukewarm or cool water for it.
You can wear compression stockings and support garments for dysautonomia as it can increase and maintain a healthy blood pressure state. Manage physical and mental stress as much as possible, as it can trigger symptoms to arise. You can pursue creative outlets, yoga, acupuncture, massage, and meditation.
Avoid caffeine as it can trigger heart palpitation, as well as anxiety symptoms, headaches, and in some, migraines.
Do not engage in taking any over-the-counter medicines and supplements advertised for dysautonomia without the permission of your physician as it can disrupt or worsen your condition or your progress. Moreover, supplements are mostly just gimmicks of companies and are not backed up by scientific evidence and explanations. There exists only a few reputable companies for dysautonomia supplements.
Have a support system.
Talk to your family, friends or join a community of people suffering from dysautonomia to find support and encouragement that you will be needing as you are battling with your condition. It’s important that you do not isolate yourself, seeking help as help is not a sign of weakness but a sign of wanting to be better. This is extremely beneficial as you battle with dysautonomia.
Follow your treatment and management plan at all times.
Stick to the schedule of any therapy, medication, tests, and consultations. Visit your doctors regularly and if you are experiencing worse symptoms or something new is bringing you suffering, your doctors should fully know it so it can aid you with the treatment you need.
Dysautonomia is indeed a very serious medical condition. All there is to know about it really speaks how we people living with it or suffering undiagnosed are seriously needing medical attention and treatment. Moreover, it suggests that those people are so resilient and strong with regards to how they navigate this life, knowing how disruptive their symptoms are.
If you or your loved ones are suffering from Dysautonomia, I urge you to always research and educate yourself about it and if you are suspecting that you or your loved ones have this, but undiagnosed and uncertain, medical consultation to validate the condition is a must, to integrate betterment and management of symptoms, that will help them to alleviate the sufferings they are experiencing. Dysautonomia is not an end to a healthy and normal life, as long as it is approached with proper medical attention and a healthy lifestyle. Moreover, it is enhanced further by a great mindset and outlook of wanting to heal and be better.