Dysautonomia: The Basics

Chronic Illness

Dysautonomia: The Basics

In your body, you have the Central Nervous System and the Peripheral Nervous System.  The Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) is one of two parts of your Peripheral Nervous System. The ANS works to maintain homeostasis in the body. 

The ANS has the big job of regulating things such as cardiovascular and respiratory control, body temperature, Digestion and the GI tract top to bottom, urinary and bowel function, metabolic and endocrine processes.  Add this in with controlling adaptive “fight or flight” responses to stress, and any bit of disorder is bound to make a big wave in how the body functions. 

Think of the ANS as the computer operating system running in the background all the time.  Dysautonomia is the dysfunction of the ANS. 

Making up the ANS you have 3 parts; the sympathetic, parasympathetic, and the enteric nervous systems.

The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for what we know as “fight or flight” responses in emergencies. The body quickly adapts for a faster heart rate and deeper breathing.  Pretty remarkable!

The parasympathetic nervous system controls basal autonomic functions such as breathing (respiration) and heart rate under normal circumstances.  Think of the PNS as “rest and digest”.  The functions that help restore energy to the body.

The enteric nervous system regulates things such as peristalsis in your digestive tract and secretion glands in your body. 

Dysautonomia is not rare.  It is an umbrella term that is used to describe many different medical conditions that cause dysfunction of the ANS.  People living with various forms of Dysautonomia have trouble regulating their body so they suffer from fainting, unstable blood pressure, malnutrition, poor circulation and loss of blood flow. 

Some forms of Dysautonomia include:

*Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome*. Researchers compare the disability seen in POTS to the conditions of COPD and Congestive Heart Failure.

*Neurocardiogenic Syncope*.  Frequent fainting attacks

*Multiple System Atrophy*. A fatal form of dysautonomia that has some similarities to Parkinson’s disease. 

*Pure Autonomic Failure*.  PAF is characterized by orthostatic hypotension (low blood pressure upon standing), a low resting supine plasma noradrenaline concentration that does not increase significantly upon standing,2,3,4 a decreased ability to sweat, persistent neck pain that is often relieved when lying down, raised blood pressure while laying down

*Orthostatic Hypotension*.  A fall in blood pressure when upright that does not correct.  Causes fainting and weakness and illness.

See more at Dysautonomia International

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