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Dysautonomia


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Dysautonomia means dysregulation of the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system is the master regulator of organ function throughout the body. It is involved in the control of heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, respiration, digestion and other vital functions. Dysregulation of the autonomic nervous system can produce the apparent malfunction of the organs it regulates. For this reason, dysautonomia patients often present with numerous, seemingly unrelated maladies.

DINET provides information and personal stories on several types of dysautonomia, with a focus on the following:

Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome

Often more simply referred to as postural tachycardia syndrome, or POTS, this disorder is characterized by the body's inability to make the necessary adjustments to counteract gravity when standing up.

The defining symptom of POTS is an excessive heart rate increment upon standing. However, as you will discover, there are a multitude of other symptoms that often accompany this syndrome. As such, POTS can be a difficult disorder to detect and understand.

Our web site provides an overview of POTS and contains sections on symptoms, mechanisms, causes, tests, myths, links and research. There are also sections with information on what may help or hinder POTS patients. To read more about postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, click on the links under the POTS Place category in the Information Resources section of the navigation bar.

Neurocardiogenic Syncope (NCS)

Sometimes referred to as neurally mediated syncope or vasovagal syncope, this disorder is characterized by an episodic fall in blood pressure and/or heart rate that results in fainting (Robertson, 2002). The disorder occurs intermittently, with patients sometimes reporting good health between episodes.

Our web site provides general information on NCS, and also explores its symptoms, mechanisms, diagnosis and treatment. A page full of links to other neurocardiogenic syncope resources on the Internet is included as well. To read more about neurocardiogenic syncope, click on the links under the NCS category in the Information Resources section of the navigation bar.

Pure Autonomic Failure (PAF)

A degenerative disease of the peripheral nervous system characterized by a marked fall in blood pressure upon standing (orthostatic hypotension). The orthostatic hypotension leads to symptoms associated with cerebral hypoperfusion, such as dizziness, fainting, visual disturbances and neck pain (Mathias, Mallipeddi & Bleasdale-Barr, 1999). Other symptoms such as chest pain, fatigue and sexual dysfunction may also occur. Symptoms are worse when standing and are sometimes relieved by sitting or lying flat.

Our web site provides a page full of links to pure autonomic failure resources on the Internet.

Multiple System Atrophy/Shy-Drager Syndrome (MSA)

A degenerative disease of the central nervous system, MSA usually becomes apparent when one is in their fifties or sixties. Genitourinary dysfunction, impotence, headache, neck pain, dimming of vision, frequent yawning, orthostatic hypotension, gait disorder, sleep disorders and hoarseness may occur with multiple system atrophy (Polinsky, 1996). Loss of sweating, rectal incontinence, iris atrophy, external ocular palsies (paralysis of eye muscles), rigidity, tremor, fasciculations and wasting of distal muscles may also occur (Rehman, 2001). 

Loss of balance, difficulty moving, loss of fine motor skills, muscle aches and pains, changes (decline) in facial expressions, difficulty chewing or swallowing and a mild decline in intellectual function are among other symptoms patients may experience. (MEDLINEPlus, 2003, Multiple System Atrophy).

MSA is a fatal illness, and patients usually die within ten years of onset.

Our website provides a page full of links to multiple system atrophy resources on the Internet.  

References

1. Mathias, C. J., Mallipeddi, R. and Bleasdale-Barr, K. (1999). Symptoms associated with orthostatic hypotension in pure autonomic failure and multiple system atrophy. Journal of Neurology, 246, (10), 893-898.

2. MEDLINEPlus Heath Information. (2003). Multiple System Atrophy. Retrieved September 8, 2003 from: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000757.htm

3. Polinsky, R. J. (1996). Multiple system atrophy and Shy-Drager syndrome. In Robertson, P. A. Low & R. J. Polinsky (Eds.), Primer on the autonomic nervous system (p. 222). San Diego, CA: Academic Press.

4. Rehman H. U. (2001). Multiple system atrophy. Postgraduate Medical Journal.  77, (908), 379-382.

5. Robertson, D. (2002, July). Drug therapy. National Dysautonomia Research Foundation Patient Conference. Washington, D.C.



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