Autoimmune autonomic ganglionopathy (AAG) occurs when your immune system attacks healthy nerve cells in your autonomic nervous system. It causes symptoms like dizziness or faintness.
Autoimmune autonomic neuropathy (AAG) is a rare condition that’s still poorly understood. It can develop without an apparent cause or after a triggering event. A combination of genetic and environmental factors likely plays a role in its development.
Because of its rarity, there’s no standard treatment for AAG. Doctors often treat AAG with medications and procedures to decrease the activity of your immune system. Some people improve even without treatment.
Read on to learn more about what researchers have discovered so far about this rare disease.
AAG falls into a group of conditions called autonomic neuropathies. These conditions cause dysfunction of your autonomic nervous system. This branch of your nervous system controls bodily functions out of your conscious control such as regulating your:
- heart rate
- breathing rate
- blood pressure
- sexual arousal
AAG develops when your immune system attacks healthy cells in your autonomic nervous system. It often develops suddenly. In some people, symptoms can get progressively worse over time.
AAG causes difficulties with your autonomic nervous system that can cause a variety of symptoms. The degree of symptoms can range from mild to severe. Some of the most common symptoms include:
- severe low blood pressure when standing (
- inability to sweat
- abnormal pupil responses to light
- urinary retention (when your bladder doesn’t empty completely)
- dry mouth
- dry eyes
- sexual dysfunction (facing significant challenges related to your ability to experience pleasure or respond sexually)
Autoimmune conditions develop when cells in your immune system attack healthy nerve cells in your autonomic nervous system. AAG develops when your immune system attacks cells in your autonomic nervous system.
The reason why some people develop AAG is poorly understood. AAG can develop after a triggering event or can develop suddenly, meaning there’s no obvious cause. It
People with AAG often develop antibodies that target
You’ll notice that the language used to share stats and other data points is pretty binary, with the use of “women” and “male.”
Although we typically avoid language like this, specificity is key when reporting on research participants and clinical findings.
Unfortunately, the studies and surveys referenced in this article didn’t report data on, or include, participants who were transgender, nonbinary, gender nonconforming, genderqueer, agender, or genderless.
Many people develop AAG after developing another illness or condition that can affect immune activity.
To start the process of receiving a diagnosis, a doctor will:
- ask you about your symptoms
- ask you about your personal and family medical history
- perform a physical exam
They may then perform other tests such as:
There’s no standard treatment for AAG due to its rarity. Commonly used treatment options include:
- Plasmapheresis: Plasmapheresis involves removing plasma from your blood and removing harmful antibodies. This can lower the number of autoantibodies circulating through your blood.
- IV immunoglobulin infusion: An IV immunoglobin infusion gives your body more antibodies to help lower inflammation and potentially lower the autoimmune reaction causing AAG.
- Corticosteroids through an IV line or orally: Corticosteroids can lower the activity of your immune system to lower the autoimmune reaction causing AAG.
- Immunosuppressive drugs: Immunosuppressant drugs also work by lowering the activity of your immune system.
In a Japanese
- IV immunoglobulin
- oral steroids
- mycophenolate mofetil
The researchers found that people who took these drugs had milder symptoms and fewer overall numbers of symptoms. People who received a combination of treatments had better improvement than people only given one therapy.
More research is needed to fully understand how to best manage AAG.
Researchers haven’t yet developed a cure for AAG, but about a third of people improve without treatment. Recovery may not be complete for all people.
Immunotherapies often need to be
AAG is a rare autoimmune condition. It’s caused by damage to cells in your autonomic nervous system due to an autoimmune reaction. It can cause symptoms such as low blood pressure when standing or GI symptoms like constipation and bloating.
Researchers haven’t developed a cure for AAG, but your symptoms may improve with treatments such as corticosteroids and immunotherapy. Many people see improvements with these treatments, and about a third of people improve without treatment.