Autonomic neuropathy is a medical condition used to describe damage or dysfunction to the nerves that control the automatic or involuntary functions of the body via the autonomic nervous system (ANS). Nerve damage within the autonomic nervous system can be lead to serious complications as the autonomic nervous system controls the majority of the organs inside the body. The autonomic nervous system automatically controls the body’s heart rate, blood pressure, temperature, perspiration and digestion.
Autonomic Neuropathy is not a specific disease but rather a condition where damage to the nerves is present. This sort of nerve damage can alter the performance of the autonomic nervous system as the signals between the brain and organ function affect the cardiovascular system, sweat glands, digestion etc. Autonomic Neuropathy can affect multiple organs simultaneously thus decreasing the body’s abilty to perform one or more involuntary functions.
Autonomic neuropathy can result in complications of a number of chronic diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Autonomic Neuropathy can also stem from the use of certain medications resulting in other side affects. These symptoms can often vary depending on the which nerves / organs are affected from autonomic neuropathy.
Symptoms of Autonomic Neuropathy:
- Dizziness and fainting upon standing caused by a drop in blood pressure
- Exercise intolerance which may occur if your heart rate remains unchanged instead of appropriately increasing and decreasing in response to your activity level.
- Urinary complications including difficulty starting urination, urinary incontinence and an inability to completely empty your bladder
- Erectile dysfunction including problems achieving or maintaining an erection (erectile dysfunction) or ejaculation problems in men, and vaginal dryness and difficulties with arousal and orgasm in women.
- Digestion complications (gastroparesis feeling of fullness after eating little, loss of appetite, diarrhea, constipation, abdominal bloating, nausea, vomiting, difficulty swallowing and heartburn.
- Sweating abnormalities such as excessive or decreased sweating, which affects the ability to regulate body temperature.
- Vision Complications – pupil reaction, making it difficult to adjust from light to dark and causing problems with driving at night.