Autonomic neuropathy


Autonomic neuropathy is characterized by nerve damage that disrupts the normal functioning of the automatic body processes. It affects various bodily functions such as blood pressure regulation, temperature control, digestion, bladder function, and even sexual function. The damaged nerves impair the communication between the brain and organs associated with the autonomic nervous system, including the heart, blood vessels, and sweat glands.

The primary cause of autonomic neuropathy is diabetes, although it can also arise from other health conditions, infections, or certain medications. The symptoms and treatment options differ depending on which specific nerves are affected. Common symptoms may include fluctuations in blood pressure, difficulties in temperature regulation, digestive problems, and challenges with bladder and sexual functions.

Dysautonomia refers to a group of disorders that share a common issue—an impaired autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS is responsible for controlling involuntary bodily functions, such as heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, digestion, body temperature, hormonal balance, bladder control, and sexual function, among others. When the ANS malfunctions, it can lead to complications such as cardiovascular problems, respiratory difficulties, loss of bladder control, and a range of other issues.

While dysautonomia cannot be cured, effective symptom management is possible. Your healthcare provider can recommend various therapies to address and alleviate your specific dysautonomia symptoms. These therapies aim to help you effectively manage the challenges posed by the condition and improve your overall well-being.


Patients with autonomic neuropathy experience different symptoms. Symptoms can occasionally exist, disappear, and reappear at any time. Some symptoms may manifest at times of mental or emotional stress or even when someone is completely relaxed. While some patients’ symptoms may be minor, others may experience persistent interference with their everyday lives.

Autonomic neuropathy manifests with a range of signs and symptoms that are contingent upon the specific nerves impacted. These indications can encompass:

  • Orthostatic intolerance: A sudden drop in blood pressure that results in lightheadedness and fainting when standing.
  • Inability to recognize: Failure to recognize the symptoms of low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
  • Urinary problems: Issues with the urinary system, including failure to completely empty the bladder, inability to start urinating, loss of bladder control, and trouble recognizing when the bladder is full. Urinary tract infections can result from an insufficiently emptied bladder.
  • Gastrointestinal (GI) problem: Indigestion of food not being able to be digested, as evidenced by symptoms including feeling full after a few bites, appetite loss, diarrhea, constipation, stomach bloating, nausea, vomiting, difficulty swallowing, and heartburn. All of these issues are the result of alterations in digestive function.
  • Sexual difficulties: Erectile dysfunction (ED), which refers to issues with getting or keeping an erection, as well as ejaculatory issues. Vaginal dryness, decreased libido, and difficulties in inducing orgasm are issues that affect women.
  • Sweating problems: The ability to control body temperature is affected by excessive or insufficient sweating.
  • Visual disturbances: Pupil response makes it difficult for transition from light to dark and to see clearly at night. Blurred vision may also occur.
  • Intolerance to exercise: This can take place if the heart rate does not change in response to the level of activity.

It is advised that people with type 2 diabetes have annual autonomic neuropathy screenings starting as soon as they are diagnosed. People with type 1 diabetes are advised to undergo yearly screening starting five years following diagnosis.

If someone exhibits any autonomic neuropathy symptoms, they should seek immediate medical assistance, especially if they have poorly controlled diabetes.


Autonomic neuropathy results from improper nerve communication in the autonomic nervous system (ANS). Autonomic neuropathy can be brought on by numerous medical disorders. It may also be a side effect of medications used to treat other conditions, such cancer. The following are some typical causes of autonomic neuropathy:

  • Diabetes: The most frequent cause of autonomic neuropathy is diabetes, particularly when it is not well controlled. Diabetes has the potential to harm the body’s nerves over time.
  • Amyloidosis: An abnormal protein buildup in the organs that has an impact on both the neurological system and the organs.
  • Viruses and bacteria: That cause Lyme disease, botulism, and HIV.
  • Certain medications: Such as several of the drugs used in chemotherapy for cancer.
  • Autoimmune diseases: In an autoimmune disease, the immune system targets and harms many body organs, including the nerves. Sjogren syndrome, systemic lupus erythematosus, rheumatoid arthritis, and celiac disease are a few examples. Rapidly occurring autoimmune disease Guillain-Barre syndrome may have an impact on the autonomic nervous system.

Paraneoplastic syndrome, a type of immune system attack brought on by some malignancies, can also result in autonomic neuropathy.

  • Some inherited disorders: Autonomic neuropathy can also be brought on by some hereditary diseases.

Risk factors

Autonomic neuropathy may be brought on by a number of factors, which are as follows:

  • Hereditary: Having a family member with the condition increase the risk in developing autonomic neuropathy
  • Age: It may be present at birth, develop through time, or manifest suddenly at any age.
  • Diabetes: Autonomic neuropathy and other types of nerve injury are made more likely by diabetes, especially when it is not properly managed. Patients who have trouble managing their blood sugar are most at danger.
  • Other diseases: The likelihood of developing autonomic neuropathy can be boosted by a number of medical diseases, such as amyloidosis, porphyria, autoimmune diseases, and hypothyroidism. Cancer can also, typically as a result of negative effects from therapy.