What is Autonomic Dysfunction?

Autonomic Dysfunction, also called Autonomic Nerve Disorder (ANS), means a person’s autonomic nervous system begins to function abnormally or break down.

Autonomic Nervous System

Autonomic nervous system is part of the nerve system and it controls your involuntary functions, including blood pressure, body temperature, perspiration, and bowel and bladder functions.

What happens when the autonomic nervous system doesn’t function properly? An example is orthostatic intolerance, meaning a person doesn’t have the ability to deal with gravity when he stands. When a person stands, blood pools in the abdomen and legs. Normally, the autonomic nervous system will compensate by constricting blood vessels and pushing the blood to the brain. When there’s impairment in autonomic nervous system, these reflexes, termed baroreflexes, do not function adequately. As a result, the person becomes dizzy, light-headed, and may faint.

Autonomic Dysfunction

Autonomic dysfunction can stand alone (primary autonomic nervous system disorders) or be caused by other medical issue, like diabetes, infections, Parkinson’s or alcoholism . In the United States, there’re more than 1 million people impacted by primary autonomic system disorder, including the common conditions as:

  • Orthostatic hypotension (OH)
  • Orthostatic intolerance (OI)
  • Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, also known as postural tachycardia syndrome (POTS)
  • Syncope
  • Neurogenic bowel (gastroparesis, intestinal dysmotility, constipation)
  • Erectile dysfunction and neurogenic bladder
  • When it affects breathing or heart function, these disorders can be life-threatening.

Cure or Live With?

Some autonomic nervous system disorders get better when an underlying disease is treated. For a primary autonomic nervous system disorder, there is no cure. The goal of treatment is to improve symptoms.



* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.