Autonomic dysfunction, Autonomic neuropathy, Dysautonomia


Autonomic dysfunction, also known as autonomic neuropathy or dysautonomia, happens when the nerves that regulate automatic bodily functions are damaged. The condition could range from mild to severe. The signals that travel from the brain to different organs and autonomic nervous system regions are affected by the injury to the nerves. Blood pressure, digestion, controlling body temperature, bladder function, and even sexual function can all be affected.

Autonomic dysfunction comes in two primary types:

  • Primary autonomic dysfunction: This type occurs on its own, without known cause. Compared to secondary autonomic dysfunction, which is caused by something else, they are less common.
  • Secondary autonomic dysfunction: Secondary autonomic dysfunction can be brought on by or caused by a number of disorders.
    Autonomic dysfunction is most commonly caused by diabetes. Infections with bacteria or viruses, specific medications, and other medical disorders might potentially be the cause. Treatment and symptoms differ according on the injured nerve.


Autonomic dysfunction signs and symptoms may affect several body systems and may differ in look based on the specific nerves affected. These could consist of:

  • A sudden drop in blood pressure that results in dizziness and fainting when standing up.
  • Issues related to sexual activity, such as ejaculation or erectile dysfunction, which are difficulty getting or maintaining an erection. Vaginal dryness, decreased libido, and trouble achieving an orgasm are among the issues women face.
  • Not being able to identify hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, because there are no warning signs, such shaking.
  • Problems with food digestion, including feeling full after only a few bites, appetite loss, diarrhea, constipation, bloating in the abdomen, nausea, vomiting, dysphagia, and heartburn. All of these issues are brought on by modifications in digestive function.
  • Problems with perspiration, such as excessive or insufficient sweating. The body’s capacity to regulate temperature is impacted by these issues.
  • Problems with the urinary system, including loss bladder control, difficulties detecting fullness, difficulty starting urination, and difficulty emptying the bladder entirely. Urinary tract infections can occur as a result of incomplete bladder emptying.
  • Slow pupil responsiveness, which impairs nighttime driving vision and makes it difficult to transition from light to dark.
  • The inability to adapt your heart rate to your activity level, which can lead to exercise intolerance.

If you have any of the signs and symptoms of autonomic neuropathy, especially if you have poorly controlled diabetes, seek immediate medical attention.

It is recommended to have yearly autonomic neuropathy test for those with type 2 diabetes, starting as soon as you are diagnosed. The recommends yearly screening for individuals with type 1 diabetes starting five years following diagnosis.


Autonomic dysfunction is a result of numerous medical disorders. It may also develop as a side effect from other medical conditions, like cancer. Among the most common causes of autonomic dysfunction are:

  • The most frequent cause of autonomic dysfunction is diabetes, particularly when it is poorly managed. Diabetes has the potential to progressively harm all of the body’s nerves.
  • Amyloidosis, an irregular protein accumulation in the organs that affects the neurological system and organs.
  • Autoimmune conditions, in which your body’s defenses, particularly your nerves, are attacked and damaged by your immune system. Sjogren syndrome, systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, and celiac disease are a few examples. An autoimmune condition that strikes quickly and can damage autonomic nerves is called Guillain-Barre syndrome.
  • An immune system attack brought on by certain cancers can also result in autonomic dysfunction (paraneoplastic syndrome). Specific medications, such as those used in chemotherapy for the treatment of cancer.
  • Certain bacteria and viruses, including those that cause botulism and Lyme disease, as well as the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
  • Autonomic dysfunction can also be caused by some hereditary conditions.

Risk factors

There are some factors that could increase your susceptible to autonomic dysfunction:

  • Diabetes: Autonomic dysfunction and other nerve damage are more likely to occur in people with diabetes, especially if it is not properly managed. The biggest risk is if you have trouble keeping your blood sugar under control.
  • Other diseases: The number of medical conditions such as hypothyroidism, porphyria, and amyloidosis, may increase the risk of autonomic neuropathy. Cancer can also occur, typically as a result of therapy side effects.