Welcome back! Last week, we talked about Hodgkin’s Disease. If you missed that blog and would like to catch up, click HERE.
This week, we tackle a disorder of the autonomous nervous system called dysautonomia. Dysautonomia is pronounced dis’-oughta-know’-me-uh. You may have experienced symptoms of this disorder without even realizing it.
If you’ve ever experienced the following symptoms: lightheadedness (occasionally with fainting), difficulty thinking and concentrating (brain fog), fatigue, intolerance of exercise, headache, blurry vision, palpitations, tremor, and nausea, then you will want to read this.
What does “autonomous nervous system” mean?
The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is in charge of involuntary functions—things that happen without thinking—like breathing.
Let’s also define two other terms ahead of this blog, the sympathetic and parasympathetic parts of the ANS.
The Sympathetic Nervous System
The sympathetic nervous system prepares the body for the “fight or flight” response during any potential danger. This system’s activity increases when you’re stressed, in danger, or physically active.
The Parasympathetic Nervous System
The parasympathetic nervous system (PSNS) serves another function. According to Healthline, your PSNS starts in your brain and extends out via long fibers that connect with special neurons near the organ they intend to act on. Once PSNS signals hit these neurons, they have a short distance to travel to their respective organs.
Examples of the areas the PSNS acts on include:
- lacrimal glands that produce tears
- parotid glands that also produce saliva
- salivary glands that produce saliva
- nerves in the stomach and trunk
- nerves that go to the bladder
- nerves and blood vessels responsible for the male erection
The PSNS is kind of a “business as usual” system that keeps the basic functions of your body working as they should.
What are their main differences?
While the sympathetic nervous system activates the body, the parasympathetic nervous system inhibits the body from overworking and restores the body to a calm and composed state.
How does dysautonomia affect these two systems?
Dysautonomia usually involves failure of the sympathetic and parasympathetic parts of the ANS.
According to the NIH, this disorder can show up in the body in different ways. Let’s look at some of the issues this disorder can trigger.
Dysautonomia is a group of neurological conditions that impact over 70 million people around the world.
Dysautonomia means “dysfunction” of the “autonomic nervous system.” The autonomic nervous system
controls all of your involuntary bodily functions like your heart rate, breathing, maintaining proper blood
pressure, digestion, sleep cycles, body temperature control, sweating, and more.
There are many different types of dysautonomia, including, but not limited to, neurocardiogenic
syncope, postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, inappropriate sinus tachycardia, orthostatic
hypotension, autoimmune autonomic ganglionopathy, pure autonomic failure, and multiple system
Dysautonomia can also occur secondary to other diseases. Diseases that commonly cause autonomic
nervous system dysfunction includes all types of diabetes, Sjögren’s syndrome, celiac disease, multiple
sclerosis, and Parkinson’s.
Due to the malfunctioning of the autonomic nervous system in people with dysautonomia, symptoms
- bradycardia (a heart rate that is too slow),
- tachycardia (a heart rate that is too fast),
- poor blood flow to the heart, brain, and other organs,
- chest pains,
- a gastrointestinal tract that moves too fast or too slow,
- blood pooling in the extremities,
- too much or too little sweating,
- cognitive impairments (“brain fog”),
- headaches, and much more.
Does anything help these symptoms?
Some, but not all, dysautonomia symptoms can be minimized by laying the patient down. This helps
restore normal blood flow to the brain and chest area. This is why it can be so difficult for dysautonomia
patients to stand sometimes.
Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia (POTS)
According to John Hopkins Medicine, POTS is a form of dysautonomia. The key characteristics of POTS are the specific symptoms and an exaggerated increase in heart rate when standing.
What does POTS stand for?
- Postural: related to the position of your body
- Orthostatic: related to standing upright
- Tachycardia: increased heart rate
- Syndrome: a group of symptoms
POTS is a common condition affecting an estimated one to three million Americans.
Symptoms of POTS
The symptoms of POTS include but are not limited to lightheadedness (occasionally with fainting), difficulty thinking and concentrating (brain fog), fatigue, intolerance of exercise, headache, blurry vision, palpitations, tremor, and nausea.
How is POTS diagnosed?
POTS is diagnosed using either a 10-minute standing test or a head-up tilt table test; occasionally other tests are performed to identify specific characteristics of POTS present in some patients.
Is it curable?
Most people’s POTS symptoms respond to a combination of diet, medications, physical therapy, and other treatments.
Can a person be disabled by this?
Dysautonomia comes with a wide range of disabilities – from mild, to very disabling, to death in rare cases. While some dysautonomia patients can continue with work, school, and social activities, many cannot, even with the best treatment currently available. Some dysautonomia patients will get better over time, by either learning to manage their symptoms better or by actually recovering from the illness. However, some remain sick with dysautonomia indefinitely, and some progressively get worse.
Tough to diagnose
Many dysautonomia patients experience years of diagnostic delay and have difficulty finding physicians
to treat their dysautonomia once they are diagnosed, because most doctors have not received training
on how to diagnose and treat autonomic nervous system disorders.
Dysautonomia International is the leading non-profit that advocates for individuals living with
dysautonomia through research, physician education, public awareness, advocacy, and patient
empowerment programs. Most of the great information for this blog came directly from this group.
To get more information about this disorder, click on this link: dysautonomia international
See your physician
If you or someone you love believes they have symptoms of this disorder, contact your physician for an exam and potential referral. You will have to do your research and find out what physicians in your area are most familiar with dysautonomia conditions. You may discover it is a cardiologist, neurologist, or even a gastroenterologist.
As always, this blog is not a replacement for sound medical advice. I am not a doctor. Please make an appointment to see your healthcare provider and put a good plan in place that works for you and the needs of your body.
That’s all I have for you this week, dear reader. I’ll see you back here next Wednesday to share another cup of coffee. Until then, be good to yourself and each other.
Mind, Body, Spirit…Osteopathic Doctors treat the whole person, not just the ailment. Is your PCP a DO? Would you like to learn more about Osteopathic Physicians? Click HERE!
Structural access to dysautonomia includes the cranial base, with attention to the Occiputo-mastoid sutures and bilateral Jugular Foramenae to optimize the vagus. Treat the intraosseous sacral strains that are distorting caudal autonomic function. Sympathetics are increasingly vulnerable in our society as T1 – T4 tend to collapse into unopposed flexion. Our ergonomics in the digital age eventually/inevitably crowd upon the sympathetic chain ganglia. Crowded together axially, lacking the extension of normal upper-thoracic function, pressed against the pleura anteriorly, they dysregulate the entire cardiovascular system above the diaphragm. How hard & fast the heart beats, which limbs get how much perfusion, wrapping up around the carotids and brainstem arteries; T1 – T4 calls the shots…poorly in the presence of chronic thoracic somatic dysfunction. Get your hands on POTS!
Thank you so much for your comment!
Reposted from Canby Now
Love these blog posts! Ever looked into Idiopathic Hypersomnia before? For whatever reason, this made me think of it.
Katie Halicki I haven’t as of today, but as of tomorrow, yes! LOL. Thanks for the thought…and for reading us.