Table of Contents
Everything you should know about Autonomic Neuropathy
Autonomic Neuropathy is a group of symptoms which occur when the nerves that manage the day to day functioning of the body are damaged. These functions involve digestion, sweating, blood pressure, bladder and bowel emptying, and heart rate. Such nerve damage troubles the signal processing between the brain and the nervous system. It is also known as Automatic Nerve Disease.
Autonomic Neuropathy is commonly associated with other diseases and medical conditions. Symptoms of the disease may vary depending on the cause of neuropathy and location of the nerve damage.
Causes of Autonomic Neuropathy
As the condition is associated with a group of symptoms, it is not a peculiar disease. There are many causes which can lead to Autonomic Neuropathy. It can also be an adverse effect of treatment made for other diseases like cancer.
Some common causes that might lead to injury of the autonomic nerves are:
- Autoimmune diseases: In such diseases, the immune system damages and attacks parts of the body including nerves. Some of the examples of autoimmune diseases include rheumatoid arthritis, celiac disease, Sjogren’s syndrome, Guillain- Barre syndrome and systemic lupus erythematosus.
An unusual attack by the immune system that happens due to some cancers can also lead to autonomic neuropathy. It is also called paraneoplastic syndrome.
- Amyloidosis: It is the abnormal build up of protein in organs that largely affects the nervous system and the organs.
- Nerve injury: Any sort of nerve injury which is caused by neck radiation or surgery can lead to autonomic neuropathy.
- Diabetes: It is the most typical cause of the disease which can gradually lead to the whole body nerve damage.
- Infectious diseases: Some bacteria and viruses like HIV, botulism and Lyme disease can lead to autonomic neuropathy.
- Certain Medications: Treatment with certain medicines like those used in cancer chemotherapy.
- Inherited disorders: Certain heredity nerve disorders can lead to autonomic neuropathy.
- Other chronic illness: like multiple sclerosis, Parkinson’s disease and some kinds of dementia.
Risk factors for Autonomic Neuropathy
People with a higher risk of the disease include:
- People with excess weight
- People with high blood pressure
- Elder people
- People with high cholesterol levels
Factors that may lead to higher risk of the disease include:
- Diabetes: Diabetes, specifically when controlled poorly leads to higher risk of nerve damage and autonomic neuropathy. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Kidney and Digestive diseases– a person is more likely to have the disease if he had diabetes for a period of more than 25 years and have problems in controlling their blood sugar.
- Other diseases: Cancer, porphyria, amyloidosis, and hypothyroidism can also lead to increased risk of autonomic neuropathy. The side effects of treatment of such diseases are also commonly responsible.
Symptoms of Autonomic Neuropathy
Symptoms and indications of Autonomic Neuropathy may vary as they depend on the affected nerves. The symptoms may include:
- Urinary problems like difficulty in urination, inability to empty the bladder, inconsistency.
- Fainting and dizziness while standing because of a sudden fall in blood pressure.
- Difficulty in the digestion of food like heartburn, abdominal bloating, vomiting, nausea, constipation, diarrhea, loss of appetite and difficulty while swallowing.
- Sluggish reaction to pupil which makes it difficult to see while driving at night and adjusting from light to dark.
- Intolerance of exercise where the heart rate does not respond to the activity level.
- Sexual difficulties like difficulty in maintaining orgasms and low libido in women, erectile dysfunction in men and dryness of the vagina.
Medical care must be sought immediately if a person experiences any of these indications or symptoms especially if that person has poorly controlled diabetes.
Autonomic Neuropathy Diagnosis
The tests needed to diagnose Autonomic Neuropathy usually depend on the risk factors and symptoms of the disease.
Indications of autonomic damage to the nerves are not always seen at the time of examination by a doctor. The heart rate and blood pressure of the patient might change while sitting, standing or lying down.
Special tests that measure heart rate and sweating might be done. This process is called autonomic testing. Other types of tests may depend upon the symptoms experienced by the patients.
Treatment of Autonomic Neuropathy
Autonomic Neuropathy treatments target the underlying condition that has caused nerve injury and the damaged nerves. Separate treatments are available for the disease depending on the symptoms experienced by the patients.
Urinary and bladder treatments include:
- Scheduling the drinking pattern and urinating for retraining the bladder
- Taking prescription medicines for the overactive bladder
- Taking prescription medicines for emptying the bladder
- Inserting a catheter through urethra for draining the bladder
Blood pressure and heart treatments include:
- A high fluid and high sodium diet for sustaining blood pressure
- Beta blockers that regulate the heart rate
- Prescription medicines to increase the blood pressure in order to combat faintness
- Prescription medicines for reducing dizziness while standing or rising
- Nerve Renew – Neuropathic support formula
- Sleeping with the elevated head for reducing dizziness
Gastrointestinal and digestive treatments include:
- Taking laxatives for the problem of constipation
- Consuming small and frequent meals
- Taking prescription medicines that aid digestion
- Taking tricyclic antidepressants for loose stools or stomach pain
- Increasing the fluid and fiber intake
Unusual sweating treatment includes:
- Taking prescription medicines for reduction of excess sweating.
Sexual dysfunction treatments include:
- Using lubricants to combat vaginal dryness
- Taking medicines for bringing an erection
- Using vacuum pump for forcing blood in the penis that may cause an erection.