Neuropathy - autonomic; Autonomic nerve disease
Autonomic neuropathy is a group of symptoms that occur when there is damage to the nerves that manage normally automatic body functions. These functions include blood pressure, heart rate, sweating, bowel and bladder emptying, and digestion.
Autonomic neuropathy is a group of symptoms. It is not a specific disease. There are many causes.
Autonomic neuropathy involves damage to the nerves that carry information from the brain and spinal cord. The information is then carried 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 slowly 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 health care provider 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.
Contact your provider 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, during a heart attack you may only have:
Prevent or control associated disorders to reduce the risk for neuropathy. For example, people with diabetes should closely control blood sugar levels.
Katirji B. Disorders of peripheral nerves. In: Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, Pomeroy SL, Newman NJ, eds. Bradley and Daroff's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2022:chap 106.
Smith G, Shy ME. Peripheral neuropathies. In: Goldman L, Schafer AI, eds. Goldman-Cecil Medicine. 26th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 392.BACK TO TOP
Review Date: 11/2/2022
Reviewed By: Evelyn O. Berman, MD, Assistant Professor of Neurology and Pediatrics at University of Rochester, Rochester, NY. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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