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Autonomic Dysfunction

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Autonomic Dysfunction

Condition Basics

What is autonomic dysfunction?

Autonomic (say "aw-tuh-NAW-mik") dysfunction is a problem with the autonomic nervous system. This is the part of the nervous system that controls the things your body does on its own. Some of these include heart rate, blood pressure, sweating, digestion, and vision. This condition is also called dysautonomia (say "dis-aw-tuh-NOH-mee-uh").

What causes it?

There are many causes for this condition. They may include:

  • Certain medicines.
  • Infections, such as Lyme disease and viral infections, including COVID-19 and HIV.
  • Autoimmune disorders, such as rheumatoid arthritis or lupus.
  • Other health problems like diabetes or Parkinson's disease.
  • Head or spinal cord injuries.
  • Long-term, heavy alcohol use.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms can vary depending on the cause and which part of the nervous system is involved. They may include:

  • A fast or irregular heartbeat.
  • Problems with urination or bowel movements.
  • Vision problems.
  • Nausea.
  • Fatigue.
  • Sleep problems.
  • Trouble thinking.
  • Feeling lightheaded or passing out.
  • Sweating more or less than usual.

How is it diagnosed?

Your doctor will ask you about your past health and do an exam. They may check your blood pressure and heart rate while you're lying down and again while you're standing. You may get lab tests or special tests, such as a tilt table test.

How is autonomic dysfunction treated?

Treatment will depend on your symptoms and what is causing them. For example, you may get medicine to take or compression stockings to wear. Or your doctor may suggest changes to your fluid or salt intake. The doctor may suggest physical therapy. Things like standing up slowly and avoiding heat may also help.

Related Information


Current as of: December 20, 2023

Author: Healthwise Staff
Clinical Review Board
All Healthwise education is reviewed by a team that includes physicians, nurses, advanced practitioners, registered dieticians, and other healthcare professionals.

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