Dysautonomia is often caused by an underlying condition but can also be due to medications or toxins. Genetics also plays a role in some types of autonomic dysfunction.
Dysautonomia occurs when your autonomic nervous system (ANS) doesn’t perform its regular function. Your ANS regulates vital but unconscious body systems, such as digestion and breathing.
There are several types of dysautonomia. Some of the most well-known kinds of dysautonomia include:
- postural tachycardia syndrome (POTS)
- orthostatic hypotension
- vasovagal syncope
- multiple system atrophy (MSA)
There are also several possible causes of autonomic dysfunction. Let’s take a look at some of the most common.
There are several types of dysautonomia that you can inherit, known as hereditary sensory and autonomic neuropathies (HSANs). These conditions are more likely to occur in people who carry specific genes.
Among the most well-defined HSANs is familial dysautonomia, also known as HSAN type 3 or Riley-Day syndrome.
Familial dysautonomia is
Several autoimmune conditions can cause dysautonomia, including:
These conditions cause many different symptoms that affect the nervous system, and dysautonomia can be one of the many effects. Some people with these conditions might not experience dysautonomia at all. For others, dysautonomia can be the main symptom.
Neurological diseases, such as Parkinson’s disease and other degenerative conditions, can be
Autonomic neuropathy can affect your:
- sweat glands
- ability to tell when your blood sugar is low (hypoglycemia unawareness)
Some infections may lead to autonomic changes.
People with long COVID may experience breathlessness, chest pain, and heart palpitations. These symptoms may intensify when standing up.
Other infectious causes of dysautonomia
Just as with physical trauma, emotional trauma may also lead to dysautonomia.
Your ANS can be divided into the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, which work together to help you prepare for and respond to stress. According to 2020 research, post-traumatic stress disorder can result in an imbalance between these two systems.
Cancerous tumors can
Paraneoplastic syndromes are rare conditions in which your body mounts an immune response to cancers in other parts of your body. The response can cause your immune system to attack healthy cells in your nervous system by mistake.
Symptoms of dysautonomia
Because of the variety of causes and types of dysautonomia, there are numerous symptoms. Some of the most common include:
- trouble standing still
- excessive fatigue
- chest discomfort or heart palpitations
- breathing difficulties
- brain fog
- gastrointestinal discomfort
Here’s an overview of some common queries people ask about dysautonomia.
Can I prevent dysautonomia?
Some types of dysautonomia, such as familial dysautonomia, are genetic and can’t be prevented. You can prevent others, such as diabetic autonomic neuropathy, by controlling the underlying condition.
What can trigger an episode of dysautonomia?
People with POTS can experience flare-ups, often with certain triggers such as menstruation, eating, overheating, dehydration, alcohol, exercise, or too much rest.
Can anxiety cause dysautonomia?
Symptoms of anxiety can feel like dysautonomia, but anxiety doesn’t cause dysautonomia. Physical symptoms, such as a racing heart rate, pounding heartbeat, and rapid breathing, are common in POTS and anxiety.
Can dysautonomia go away?
Depending on the underlying cause, treatment can help you manage and reduce symptoms of dysautonomia. A doctor may recommend lifestyle changes or alter your treatment plan. Treating an underlying condition, such as a tumor, is critical to treating dysautonomia.
Dysautonomia is an acquired or inherited condition with a wide range of possible causes.
Some forms of dysautonomia develop because of your genetics. Other forms may result from trauma, an infection, or a chronic condition. Lifestyle factors, such as diet, alcohol consumption, and exposure to toxins, may also play a role.
Treating dysautonomia often involves managing the underlying condition, making lifestyle changes, and possibly modifying medication use.