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Autonomic neuropathy is a group of symptoms that occur when there is damage to the nerves that manage every day body functions such as blood pressure, heart rate, sweating, bowel and bladder emptying, and digestion.
Neuropathy - autonomic; Autonomic nerve disease
Autonomic neuropathy is a group of symptoms, not a specific disease. There are many causes.
Autonomic neuropathy involves damage to the nerves that carry information from the brain and spinal cord to the heart, blood vessels, bladder, intestines, sweat glands, and pupils.
Autonomic neuropathy may be seen with:
Symptoms vary depending on the nerves affected. They usually develop gradually over years.
Stomach and intestine symptoms may include:
Heart and lungs symptoms may include:
Bladder symptoms may include:
Other symptoms may include:
Signs of autonomic nerve damage are not always seen when your doctor examines you. Your blood pressure or heart rate may change when lying down, sitting, or standing.
Special tests to measure sweating and heart rate may be done. This is called autonomic testing.
Other tests depend on what type of symptoms you have.
Treatment to reverse nerve damage is most often not possible. As a result, treatment and self-care are focused on managing your symptoms and preventing further problems.
Your doctor may recommend:
The following may help your intestines and stomach work better:
Medicines and self-care programs can help you if you have:
How well you do will depend on the cause of the problem and if it can be treated.
Call for an appointment with your doctor if you have symptoms of autonomic neuropathy. Early symptoms might include:
Early diagnosis and treatment may control symptoms.
Autonomic neuropathy may hide the warning signs of a heart attack. Instead of feeling chest pain, if you have autonomic neuropathy, you may only feel sudden fatigue, sweating, shortness of breath, nausea, and vomiting during a heart attack.
Preventing or controlling disorders associated with autonomic neuropathy may reduce the risk related to the disorder. For example, people with diabetes should closely control blood sugar levels.
Chelimsky T, Robertson D, Chelimsky G. Disorders of the autonomic nervous system. In: Daroff: Bradley's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 6th ed. Philadelphia, PA; Elsevier; 2012: chap 77.
Cheshir WP. Autonomic disorders and their management. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman's Cecil Medicine. 24th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 427.
Review Date: 11/5/2014
Reviewed By: Joseph V. Campellone, M.D., Division of Neurology, Cooper University Hospital, Camden, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, PhD, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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