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Dysautonomia

Dysautonomia is a term used to describe a group of disorders that affect the autonomic nervous system (ANS), which controls the body's automatic functions such as heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, temperature regulation, pain control and respiration. The ANS is divided into two branches, the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous system, which work together to maintain homeostasis in the body.

There are several different types of dysautonomia, depending on which part of the ANS is affected. Some examples include:

  • Orthostatic intolerance (OI): Causes symptoms such as lightheadedness, fainting, and fatigue when a person stands up. It is caused by problems with the sympathetic nervous system's ability to regulate blood pressure and heart rate in response to changes in body position.

  • Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS): A type of dysautonomia that causes an excessive increase in heart rate when a person stands up, along with symptoms such as lightheadedness, fatigue, and fainting.

  • Inappropriate Sinus Tachycardia (IST): a type of dysautonomia that is characterized by an elevated heart rate (tachycardia) that is not caused by an identifiable or appropriate physiological stimulus. The heart rate can be elevated during both physical activity and at rest.

  • Neurocardiogenic Syncope (NCS)

  • Dysautonomia secondary to infection or autoimmunity

  • Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)

Symptoms commonly present as:

  • faint upon standing or changing position 

  • lightheadedness, or dizziness

  • fatigue

  • shortness of breath

  • headaches/migraines

  • heart rate and blood pressure changes

  • visual disturbances 

  • decreased pain tolerance

Image by nikko macaspac
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