Autonomic dysfunction is also known as autonomic neuropathy, or dysautonomia. This term is used to describe a range of medical issues that may arise when the autonomic nervous system isn’t functioning properly. The autonomic nervous system, or ANS, is responsible for controlling your involuntary bodily functions, like digestion, heartbeat, and breathing. Today our team at Chetco Medical & Aesthetics in Gold Beach, OR, is going to focus on some of the symptoms of dysautonomia.
What Are the Symptoms of Autonomic Dysfunction?
Do you feel lightheaded when you stand up from a reclining position? Do you also tend to get dizzy after standing for long periods of time? Orthostatic intolerance may be to blame, as it’s one of the possible symptoms of autonomic dysfunction. It can also make a patient feel as though their heartbeat is rapidly and uncomfortably increasing. Patients with this condition are more likely to faint as well.
Vision issues like blurred vision or tunnel vision can be symptoms of dysautonomia. In severe cases, loss of vision may also present as a symptom.
Brain fog is often considered one of the most common and universal symptoms of dysautonomia. It describes a difficulty with concentration, memory, and reason. It can happen whether you’re standing or seated, which can lead to problems in school for younger patients.
The reason it’s called “brain fog” is due to the fact that a patient may describe their mind feeling “cloudy” or “blurry.” They may feel like they have to search through a fog to find their own thoughts or the right words.
Changes in Skin and Body Temperature
Temperature regulation can be a challenge for those who have this condition. When a body’s ANS isn’t able to function correctly, it may struggle to keep up with changes in the environment.
Heat, in particular, can cause blood vessels to widen, which may make certain dysautonomia symptoms like increased heart rate more noticeable.
When dysautonomia impacts the cardiac system, it can lead to discomfort or pain in the chest. Heart palpitations can feel like the heart “skipping a beat” or like a sudden, sharp pain. Other patients may experience a heaviness in their chest.
In a world where it can seem like everyone is pushing themselves to their limits, patients with fatigue may chalk it up to overwork or stress. So, how can you tell if your fatigue is extreme, or a sign of an underlying health issue?
The best way is to seek out professional guidance, but it’s also important to rule issues out. If you’re tired no matter how much sleep you get, and you’re so overwhelmingly exhausted that you can’t ever seem to “catch up” on rest, it may be time to look into possible causes.
GI upset is another common symptom of this condition, with constipation being one of the possible presentations. Bacterial overgrowth affecting the upper tract of the small bowel is also possible. While constipation can be a concern, the body may respond to this condition with diarrhea or fecal incontinence instead.
Since this condition affects the body’s spontaneous movements, it can make the stomach’s natural involuntary movements less effective. Gastroparesis in particular can make the stomach less effective in digesting food and pushing it through the digestive system.
Dehydration can worsen other symptoms of autonomic neuropathy, so it’s crucial a patient remains well hydrated. Proper hydration is one of the tools a patient has to help them manage their symptoms, along with professional help and guidance.
Erectile dysfunction is often mistakenly viewed as a purely psychological condition since an erection is usually a spontaneous reaction to sexual stimulation. However, there are physical mechanisms involved with an erection. When the body’s ability to carry out spontaneous actions is inhibited, erectile dysfunction can be a result.
Frequent Headaches or Migraines
Chronic migraines or a propensity to headaches may indicate an underlying issue. Patients with dysautonomia may especially notice they’re prone to headaches when they get up after a period of inactivity.
Blood Pressure Swings
Blood pressure swings can make a patient feel like they’re on an unpleasant rollercoaster in their own body. This is a common symptom of dysautonomia. When blood pressure suddenly increases, it can make someone feel sweaty and flushed, or even agitated.
On the other hand, a sudden drop in blood pressure can make a patient feel weak, have trouble with their vision, and become lightheaded or faint. Vomiting may occur due to sudden blood pressure changes.
Heart Rate That Is Too Slow or Too Fast
A heart rate that’s either irregular, too fast, or too slow should always be looked into as soon as possible. This symptom can potentially indicate autonomic dysfunction, among other things.
The body’s ability to hold in urine can be impacted by this condition. This can make patients feel as though they’re always having to rush to the bathroom to relieve themselves. Out of fear of incontinence, some patients may wear bladder control pads.
Low Blood Sugar
This condition may make you less likely to notice when your blood glucose has gotten low, which is also known as hypoglycemia unawareness.
Mood swings can be their own symptom of dysautonomia or may become more likely due to the stress and discomfort of dealing with various other symptoms. This complex condition may negatively affect a patient’s mental health either due to emotional fatigue, or dysregulation of their neural transmitters.
Regardless of the cause, mental health symptoms should never be overlooked, as a patient has the right to have their mental welfare taken just as seriously as their physical welfare. The body is intricately interlocked, so it’s no surprise that mental and physical symptoms often go hand-in-hand.
Do you suffer from frequent stomach upset, or find yourself easily becoming nauseous even to the point of vomiting? Rather than writing it off as a sensitive stomach, these could be symptoms of an underlying concern.
Noise or Light Sensitivity
Sensory overload is a common and very frustrating symptom. Peers who are unfamiliar with sensory overstimulation may incorrectly write someone off as dramatic or overly sensitive. The truth is, noise and light sensitivity are real symptoms that can impact the daily lives of those struggling with dysautonomia.
If you find yourself becoming panicked or overwhelmed by loud, bright, or generally stimulating situations, you may be dealing with sensory sensitivity.
Shortness of Breath
Breathing is one of those functions that happens automatically, and can be affected by an unhealthy autonomic nervous system. This can lead to sleep apnea as the body may have more trouble regulating breathing at night.
A patient may find themselves sleeping poorly due to infrequent or shallow breathing at rest. This symptom can even be a concern throughout the day, with a patient feeling as though they have to “catch their breath” more frequently.
This is a less common symptom, but still one worth noting. As this condition can affect the body’s regulatory abilities, a patient may notice either excessive sweating, or less sweating than normal.
Just as this condition can cause dizziness, balance may be affected. A patient may overlook this symptom at times due to seeing themselves as “clumsy.”
There Are a Wide Range of Symptoms
One of the many challenging aspects of autonomic dysfunction is how differently it can present from patient to patient. Symptoms may come and go seemingly at random. Some patients find their symptoms are more noticeable when they’re stressed, while others don’t see any correlation between their symptoms and stress levels.
The severity of symptoms can also range drastically. Some patients may find their symptoms seriously impacting their daily lives, while others find them mild and manageable. If your symptoms are negatively impacting your life, looking into a diagnosis may be a good idea.
What Can We Do?
We offer a range of services to support the health and continual wellbeing of our patients. By using SudoScan, which is a non-invasive tool that can detect both autonomic dysfunction and diabetic small fiber neuropathy, we can help our patients find the answers they’re looking for.
This can be used as a preventative measure for patients, as it can help us determine if you’re at risk of developing health complications. This information will guide the type of lifestyle advice we give you, which may include either proactive measures or a range of treatment options.
Reach Out if You Need Help
Our team is dedicated to helping our patients stay as healthy as possible, so they can continue to thrive and live their lives to the fullest. If you have more questions about us or the services we provide, our staff would be happy to assist you. Reach out to us at Chetco Medical & Aesthetics in Gold Beach,OR today to schedule your consultation.