Your autonomic nervous system is a part of your nervous system you’re likely not aware of most of the time. At least not until something goes wrong with it.
The autonomic nervous system functions automatically, without any help from your conscious brain. It controls internal organs and such actions as:
- heart beating
- pupil dilation
- breathing rate
- blood pressure
- insulin secretion
- sexual response
- blood vessels size
- urination, defecation
- liver, kidney function
- releasing stored energy
- balance of water & electrolytes
- fluid production ~ saliva, sweat, tears
- body temperature, digestion, metabolism
An essential goal of this automated system is to maintain homeostasis by adapting to environmental changes and responding to stress via your internal organs.
Your autonomic nervous system achieves homeostasis either by stimulating or inhibiting body processes. This is managed by the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems, divisions of the autonomic system.
Stimulation is accomplished through your sympathetic nervous system. And inhibition is by way of your parasympathetic nervous system.
Generally, the sympathetic component prepares your body for “emergency” situations. Whereas, your parasympathetic is predominant during the calm periods. Under healthy conditions, these two divisions work in concert to maintain a fairly balanced existence.
However, your autonomic nervous system can fail to function properly. And dysautonomia is the term used to describe this breakdown. The cause is unknown, yet a couple of potential suspects are:
Dysautonomia causes a very broad range of symptoms, like:
- dry eyes
- chest pain
- dry mouth
- excessive fatigue
- muscle weakness
- mental impairment
- erectile dysfunction
- exercise intolerance
- difficulty swallowing
- headaches, migraines
- orthostatic hypotension
- temperature intolerance
- gastrointestinal problems
- syncope, feel like fainting
- dizziness, lightheadedness
- under or over active bladder
- dangerously low blood pressure
- extremely fast or slow heart rate
- urinary incontinence, retention, frequent urination
- blurred vision, light sensitivity, other vision problems
The combination and severity of dysautonomia symptoms differs extensively. If the disorder of your autonomic nervous system affects your breathing or heart function, then it can cause serious health consequences.
Dysautonomia sympathetic or parasympathetic component failure can be acute and reversible, as seen Guillain-Barre syndrome. Or be chronic and progressive. It can occur alone or along with another health condition, such as:
- thyroid disorders
- Parkinson’s disease
- autoimmune disorder
- multiple system atrophy
- chronic fatigue syndrome
- complex regional pain syndromes
Your dysautonomia may improve with successful treatment of these health conditions.
Otherwise, the treatment for a malfunctioning sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems is combating any uncomfortable symptoms.