Autonomic Neuropathy

Autonomic neuropathy is a group of symptoms caused by damage to nerves that regulate blood pressure, heart rate, bowel and bladder emptying, digestion, and other body functions.

Autonomic neuropathy is a form of peripheral neuropathy.  Autonomic neuropathy is a group of symptoms, not a specific disease.  There are many causes.

Autonomic neuropathy involves damage to the nerves that run through a part of the peripheral nervous system.  The peripheral nervous system includes the nerves used for communication to and from the brain and spinal cord (central nervous system) and all other parts of the body, including the internal organs, muscles, skin, and blood vessels.

Damage to the autonomic nerves causes abnormal or decreased function of the areas connected to the problem nerve.  For example, damage to the nerves of the gastrointestinal tract makes it harder to move food during digestion (decreased gastric motility).

Damage to the nerves supplying blood vessels causes problems with blood pressure and body temperature.

Autonomic neuropathy is associated with the following:

Alcoholic neuropathy * Diabetic neuropathy * Parkinson’s disease * Disorders involving sclerosis of tissues * Surgery or injury involving the nerves * Use of anticholinergic medications * Symptoms

Swollen abdomen * Heat intolerance, induced by exercise * Nausea after eating * Vomiting of undigested food * Early satiety (feeling full after only a few bites) * Unintentional weight loss of more than 5% of body weight * Male impotence * Diarrhea * Constipation * Dizziness that occurs when standing up * Blood pressure changes with position * Urinary incontinence (overflow incontinence) * Difficulty beginning to urinate * Feeling of incomplete bladder emptying * Fainting* Abnormal sweating

Updated by: Daniel Kantor, M.D., Director of the Comprehensive MS Center, Neuroscience Institute, University of Florida Health Science Center, Jacksonville, FL.  Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.

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