What Causes Dysautonomia After a Concussion?

By Danielle Bradshaw from In The Cloud Copy

For the past five years, it has become more and more apparent that some people have a greater predisposition to suffer from certain conditions – one of which can be dysautonomia. This affects the autonomic nervous system (the bodily system that controls and regulates all “autonomous” functions such as heartbeat, digestion, kidney function, and blood pressure). Actually putting this information to use is easier said than done, though, as there are many clinicians who aren’t able to identify symptoms of autonomic dysfunction or know how to treat them.

Why Do Concussions Cause Some People to Develop Autonomic Dysfunction?

The reason why some people are more liable to have autonomic nervous system problems after concussions may be to do with the manner in which the resulting trauma can cause problems with cerebrospinal fluid and blood flow in a patient’s brain. More specifically, when blood flow has been disrupted, it can negatively influence the way the jugular vein removes venous (deoxygenated) blood from the brain.

There have been studies conducted that have proven that interruptions in the flow of blood from the jugular vein are linked to medical conditions like migraine headaches, multiple sclerosis, and mild traumatic brain injuries. If venous blood isn’t allowed to properly flow from the brain through the jugular, an accumulation of toxic metabolites and a backflow of deoxygenated blood, as well as cerebrospinal fluid into the brain, can occur. This irregular flow of blood can also result in the disturbance of normal brain stem activity and prolonged neuroinflammation (inflammation of nervous tissues) after traumatic injuries.

But What Does This Have to Do with Patients Developing Dysautonomia?

Dysautonomia is a collection of medical afflictions that cause a person’s autonomic nervous system to misbehave. Over 70 million people across the world have some form of this disorder and it makes their bodies unable to properly regulate things like internal temperature control, digestion, kidney function, or pupil dilation and constriction – functions that are normally performed automatically. It can result in complications like unstable blood pressure, malnutrition, fainting, and even death.

There is a kind of treatment called balloon angioplasty (when a balloon catheter is used to widen a blocked or narrowed blood vessel) which has been demonstrated to effectively treat faulty jugular veins and has been shown to alleviate symptoms of dysautonomia. This is relevant because head injuries can often affect the upper neck where many venous structures, like the jugular vein, are located. It has been demonstrated that improper positioning of the atlas vertebra (the first vertebra of the spine, located in the neck) is connected to venous malfunction in MS patients.

This theory hasn’t been tested in a group of concussed patients as of yet, but many people that have developed dysautonomia after neck trauma have reported improved autonomic functionality after getting treatment for their upper necks. Getting a balloon angioplasty inside of the jugular vein does carry a certain risk, but more moderate methods of treatment can safely alleviate symptoms.

Read more about this here.

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