Autonomic neuropathy is a group of symptoms that occur when there is damage to the nerves that manage every day body functions such as blood pressure, heart rate, sweating, bowel and bladder emptying, and digestion.
Autonomic neuropathy is a group of symptoms, not a specific disease. There are many causes.
Autonomic neuropathy involves damage to the nerves that carry information from the brain and spinal cord to the heart, bladder, intestines, sweat glands, pupils, and blood vessels.
Autonomic neuropathy may be seen with:
Symptoms vary depending on the nerves affected. They usually develop gradually over years. Symptoms may include:
Stomach and intestines
Heart and lungs
Signs of autonomic nerve damage are not always seen when yourdoctor or nurse examines you. Your blood pressure or heart rate may change when lying down, sitting, and standing.
Special tests to measure sweating and heart rate may be done. This is called "autonomic testing."
Other tests depend on what type of symptoms you have.
Treatment to reverse nerve damage is most often not possible. As a result, treatment and self-care are focused on managing your symptoms and preventing further problems.
Your doctor or nurse may recommend:
The following may help your intestines and stomach work better:
Medicines and self-care programs can help you if you have:
How well you do depends on the cause of the problem and if it can be treated.
Call for an appointment with your health care provider if you have symptoms of autonomic neuropathy. Early symptoms might include:
Early diagnosis and treatment increases the likelihood of controlling symptoms.
Autonomic neuropathy may hide the warning signs of a heart attack. They are sudden fatigue, sweating, shortness of breath, nausea, and vomiting.
Preventing or controlling disorders associated with autonomic neuropathy may reduce the risk. For example, people with diabetes should closely control blood sugar levels.
Neuropathy - autonomic; Autonomic nerve disease
Shy ME. Peripheral neuropathies. In: Goldman L, Ausiello D, eds. Cecil Medicine. 23rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 446.
Benarroch E, Freeman R, Kaufman H. Autonomic nervous system. In: Goetz CG, eds. Textbook of Clinical Neurology. 3rd ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2007:chap 21.
Chelimsky T, Robertson D, Chelimsky G. Disorders of the Autonomic Nervous System. In: Daroff: Bradley's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 6th ed. Philadelphia,Pa; Elsevier; 2012: chap 77.
Updated by: Luc Jasmin, MD, PhD, Department of Neurosurgery at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, and Department of Anatomy at UCSF, San Francisco, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M. Health Solutions, Ebix, Inc.
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