Discover the specifics about dysautonomia, a complex condition that affects your body’s unconscious functions.
Imagine a captain steering a ship. Each day, the captain is tasked with a myriad of choices that ensure the ship sails smoothly, and the captain’s decisions play a critical role in keeping the ship afloat and on course.
Your body also has a similar captain: your autonomic nervous system. This internal captain controls a multitude of body functions that don’t require your active input, such as setting the pace of your heart rate, regulating your blood pressure, and maintaining a stable body temperature.
But when the seamless operation of your autonomic nervous system is disrupted, these critical functions can go haywire. This is where dysautonomia and its various manifestations come into play.
Dysautonomia is a complex, umbrella term that encompasses several different medical conditions. Each condition involves a malfunction of the autonomic nervous system.
The part of the body that’s affected determines the type of symptoms you experience. The cardiovascular system is often affected by dysautonomia, though other areas may include the bladder, gastrointestinal system, and more.
Common types of dysautonomia include:
- postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS)
- multiple system atrophy (MSA)
- neurocardiogenic syncope (NCS)
These different forms may share some symptoms, but they also have unique features that differentiate them from one another.
Just like the many types of dysautonomia, the symptoms can also be quite diverse and have varying intensity. Some people might experience mild symptoms, while others may deal with severe and life-altering complications.
Common symptoms can include:
- difficulty balancing
- blurry vision
- difficulty breathing
- difficulty swallowing
- chest pain or palpitations
- light or sound sensitivity
- changes in body temperature
- mood shifts
- erectile dysfunction
- irregular heart rate
- difficulty exercising
What does a dysautonomia flare feel like?
A dysautonomia flare can feel like your symptoms have returned or intensified. The specific symptoms that you feel depend on which type of dysautonomia you may be living with.
With POTS, for example, a symptom flare may include feelings of chest pain and shortness of breath, among others.
On the other hand, in multiple system atrophy, a flare-up may make you lose control of your bladder and have difficulty finding your balance.
Generally, dysautonomia flare-ups can be a frightening experience, especially when they’re severe. In some cases, they can significantly affect your day-to-day life and make basic tasks more difficult.
The symptoms of dysautonomia can be sporadic, disappearing and reappearing unpredictably. Certain symptoms may arise during periods of either emotional upheaval or physical strain, while at times, they might begin even in moments when you feel calm.
The severity of these symptoms can also differ. You may experience symptoms in a more mild, infrequent manner, whereas another person may find their daily life disrupted by them.
There may also be specific triggers, such as positional changes or medications, although it depends on the type of dysautonomia in question.
Given the wide range of symptoms, dysautonomia can be mistaken for several other disorders. Conditions such as anxiety disorders and chronic fatigue syndrome may have overlapping symptoms with dysautonomia. Therefore, it can sometimes be a challenge to get an accurate diagnosis.
Some conditions that can be
- cardiac arrhythmia
- congestive heart failure
- heart attack
- diabetes insipidus
- eating disorders
It’s also the case that dysautonomia can develop as a result of another disorder. This is known as secondary dysautonomia, and it can sometimes occur in conditions such as diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and
Treating dysautonomia often involves a multi-modal approach. The goal is to manage symptoms, prevent complications, and improve your quality of life.
Treatment may include:
- medications and/or avoidance of certain medications
- physical therapy
- diet and exercise changes
Dysautonomia life expectancy
While dysautonomia symptoms can significantly affect your quality of life, most forms don’t directly affect your life expectancy.
However, it’s crucial to understand that each type of dysautonomia is unique, and some types, like multiple system atrophy, can be more severe and potentially life-shortening.
Regular consultation and treatment from healthcare professionals is essential to determine the most appropriate course of action.
Dysautonomia is a condition that involves malfunctioning in the autonomic nervous system. There is a wide range of symptoms associated with dysautonomia since many different conditions fall under the category of dysautonomia, including POTS and MSA.
Navigating life with dysautonomia can be daunting, but a thorough understanding of the condition and a supportive healthcare team can help you manage your symptoms more effectively.