Autonomic neuropathy

Definition

Autonomic neuropathy is a group of symptoms that occur when there is damage to the nerves that manage every day body functions. These functions include blood pressure, heart rate, sweating, bowel and bladder emptying, and digestion.

Causes

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

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:

Exams and Tests

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

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:

Outlook (Prognosis)

How well you do will depend on the cause of the problem and if it can be treated.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call 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:

Prevention

Prevent or control associated disorders to reduce the risk for neuropathy. For example, people with diabetes should closely control blood sugar levels.


Review Date: 10/18/2018
Reviewed By: Alireza Minagar, MD, MBA, Professor, Department of Neurology, LSU Health Sciences Center, Shreveport, LA. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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