Dysautonomia and Its Astonishing Effects

Dysautonomia is an umbrella term for a number of disorders of the autonomic nervous system (ANS).

storm buster keaton silent film umbrella buster dysautonomia
Dysautonomia pretty much blows the umbrella away because it includes so many different types of conditions! [Source: giphy.com]
But to understand the collection of conditions called “dysautonomia,” first we have to understand what the functions of the ANS are: And the short answer is pretty much everything automatic in the body:

  • How fast or slow the heart beats
  • Digestion
  • Respiratory rate
  • Kidney function (urination)
  • Fight-or-flight response

When the ANS malfunctions, different types of dysautonomia can result.

Let’s take a look at some of the forms it takes. Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia syndrome, or POTS, is manifested by a sudden drop in blood pressure when the patient rises from a sitting position. This can cause the person to faint, or fall down. It affects women in greater numbers than men, and the onset usually occurs around the time of puberty. Scientists are divided in their opinions as to what causes POTS. Some think there is a genetic component, while others suspect it to be the result of an autoimmune disorder.

Next on the list is neurocardiogenic syncope, another member of the dysautonomia family. Symptoms, like POTS, include blood pressure fluctuations, and fainting is common. Some people rarely faint, and others faint so frequently that it interferes with their ability to participate in normal activities.

Although more rare, multiple system atrophy (MSA) usually presents symptoms in people over the age of 50, and is frequently misdiagnosed as Parkinson’s disease because the symptoms have a lot in common.

Unfortunately, there are no known cures for dysautonomia, and there are other forms that have not been discussed in this article. Treatments vary from person-to-person according to the symptoms present.

Erica Zahn

Erica Zahn

Erica Zahn is passionate about raising awareness of rare diseases and disorders and helping people connect with the resources that may ease their journey. Erica has been a caregiver, and is a patient, herself, so she completely relates to the rare disease community--on a deeply personal level.

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