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Dysautonomia, or autonomic dysfunction, is a medical term used to describe a condition that impairs various body functions, as it causes changes in the autonomic nervous system, which is composed of the brain and nerves and is responsible for involuntary movements of the body. body like heart rate, breathing control, temperature control and blood pressure.
In dysautonomia, the altered autonomic nervous system gives contrary responses to what is expected. The control of the "fight or flight" response, in the case of an "attack", for example, the body's normal response is an increase in pulse, blood pressure and strength, but in dysautonomia the response is inadequate and there is a decrease in heart rate, drop in blood pressure and decreased strength, fatigue and drowsiness.
Symptoms of dysautonomia are not always visible, however, signs such as dizziness, fainting, shortness of breath, excessive fatigue, inability to stand, vision problems, vertigo and even memory loss can arise. In this way, as these symptoms are common to other situations, they can be confused with those of other diseases.
This alteration has no specific causes, but it can occur as a result of diseases such as diabetes, fibromyalgia, amyloidosis, porphyria, trauma and central nervous system injuries. The diagnosis of dysautonomia is made through clinical examination performed by a neurologist or cardiologist and through genetic tests. There is no cure, but therapies and medications can be used to relieve symptoms.
The symptoms of dysautonomia can be different depending on the type, vary from one person to another and are not always possible to observe. However, as this disease causes changes in the nervous system, it can lead to the appearance of signs such as:
- Sudden shortness of breath;
- Weakness of muscles;
- Inability to stand;
- Nausea and vomiting;
- Vision problems;
- Memory loss;
- Sudden mood swings;
- Sensitivity to light;
- Difficulty performing physical exercises;
- Excessive tremors.
Some signs of dysautonomia are only identified with specific devices or tests, which can be a drop in blood pressure, an increase or decrease in heart rate, a drop in blood pressure, problems in maintaining body temperature and a reduction in blood sugar.
The diagnosis of this condition can be made by a neurologist or cardiologist through the analysis of these symptoms and through complementary tests, such as genetic tests that serve to identify changes in the body's genes.
Dysautonomia can appear in people of any age, sex or race, but some types may be more common in women, such as postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, for example. The causes of this alteration are not well defined, but it can arise as a consequence of other diseases such as diabetes, amyloidosis, fibromyalgia, multiple myeloma, porphyria, trauma and central nervous system injuries.
Some situations can also lead to the onset of dysautonomia, such as excessive use of alcohol and certain medications, such as antidepressants, antihypertensives, antipsychotics or antineoplastic drugs, but these cases are rarer.
Types of dysautonomia
Dysautonomia is a condition that causes changes in the autonomic nervous system and can appear in different ways, the main types being:
- Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome: is based on the onset of symptoms such as dizziness, increased heart rate, severe shortness of breath and chest pain, mainly affects younger women, under 40 years old;
- Neurocardiogenic syncope: is the most common type, leads to constant fainting;
- Family dysautonomia: is very rare, appears only in people of Ashkenazi Jewish descent;
- Multiple system atrophy: is the most severe type, in which symptoms are similar to Parkinson's disease and tend to worsen over time;
- Autonomic dysreflexia: mainly affects people who have had a spinal cord injury.
Another type of dysautonomia is the autonomic diabetic neuropathy that occurs due to the changes caused by diabetes and affect the nerves that control the heart, leading to the emergence of problems to regulate body temperature, blood glucose, blood pressure, bladder functioning and can also cause erectile dysfunction.Learn how autonomic neuropathy is treated.
How the treatment is done
Dysautonomia is a serious disease and has no cure, so the treatment is based on supportive measures and for the relief of symptoms that can be done through physiotherapy sessions to strengthen body movement, activities with speech therapy, if the person has swallowing difficulties and therapy with a psychologist, to help the person deal with this condition.
In some cases, as dysautonomia causes loss of balance and a drop in blood pressure, the doctor may recommend that the person drink more than 2 liters of water a day, eat a high-s alt diet, and use medication like fludrocortisone.