A neurological disorder typified by dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system. One, or many of the functions performed by the body’s “auto-pilot” can be affected.* Have you heard of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems? These, together, are the autonomic nervous system.
See diagram below for a more detailed look at what all the autonomic functions are. When a body is struggling with Dysautonomia, there is a constant internal struggle for homeostasis. Patients have labile symptoms which can make diagnosis tricky.
When all aspects of the autonomic system are affected, it is called Pandysautonomia (pan from the latin for ‘all’). That is my diagnosis.
This term for a more widespread, sometimes autoimmune Dysautonomia is more commonly used in the UK and NZ. In the States, it is called Autoimmune Autonomic Ganglionopathy.
The following excerpt is from the ‘go to’ site for patients and medical professionals when it comes to Dysautonomia. The information below has been reproduced with permission.
I emailed Dysautonomia International when I was first diagnosed and Lauren Stiles emailed me a long letter full of supportive, timely information. She continues to help people like me through her website. You can find them at
“Dysautonomia is an umbrella term used to describe various conditions that cause a malfunction of the Autonomic Nervous System. The Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) controls most of the essential functions of the body that we do not consciously think about, such as heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, dilation and constriction of the pupils of the eye and temperature control.The ANS is made up of two branches: the Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) and the Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS). The SNS controls the more active “fight or flight” responses such as increasing heart rate and blood pressure.1,2 The PNS can be thought of as the “rest and digest” part of the autonomic nervous system, as it slows down the heart rate and aides in digestion.1,3,4 The endocrine andmetabolic systems are involved as well.3 These systems are in balance in a healthy person, and react correctly to outside stimuli, such as temperature, stress, and gravity. When they are out of balance and do not function properly for any number of reasons, autonomic dysfunction – or dysautonomia – occurs. People living with various forms of dysautonomia have trouble regulating these systems, which can result in symptoms such as lightheadedness, fainting, unstable blood pressure, tachycardia or bradycardia, gastoparesis and more.
Dysautonomia can occur as a primary disorder or in association with other conditions, such as Diabetes, Rheumatoid arthritis and Parkinson disease.1,3 Some of the more common forms of Dysautonomia include Neurocardiogenic Syncope (NCS, sometimes called Vasovagal Syncope), Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS) and Orthostatic Intolerance (OI). Some of the less common forms of Dysautonomia include Pure Autonomic Failure (PAF), Multiple System Atrophy (MSA), Familial Dysautonomia, Baroreflex Failure, Autoimmune Autonomic Ganglionopathy, and Dopamine Beta Hydroxylase Deficiency.1,2,3,4,5
This is not a fully inclusive list, as there are many different forms of dysautonomia.
There is currently no cure for dysautonomia, but secondary forms such as Sjogren’s Syndrome induced autonomic neuropathy or Diabetic Autonomic Neuoropathy may improve with treatment of the underlying disease.4 There are many treatments available to improve quality of life, both with medications and lifestyle changes/adaptations geared towards the type of dysautonomia and unique health situation of the patient. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5
Dysautonomia International encourages you to read the summaries of the more common autonomic disorders under our “Learn More” tab”.
2. Dysautonomias: Clinical Disorders of the Autonomic Nervous System. Moderator: David S. Goldstein, MD, PhD; Discussants: David Robertson, MD; Murray Esler, MD; Stephen E. Straus, MD; and Graeme Eisenhofer, PhD
3. Dysautonomia, A family of misunderstood disorders. Richard N. Fogoros, M.D., About.com Guide Updated November 13, 2011.
5. Clinical Disorders of the Autonomic Nervous System Associated With Orthostatic Intolerance: An Overview of Classification, Clinical Evaluation and Management. Blair P. Grubb, M.D. Associate Professor of Medicine and Pediatrics, Divisions of Cardiology and Neurology, Barry Karas, M.D. Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, The Medical College of Ohio.