Some diseases rarely are correctly diagnosed, and patients do not receive proper treatment for years. Autonomic dysfunctions often resemble known disease entities, such as complex regional pain syndrome, similar in symptoms to Parkinson’s disease. It causes a lot of problems in the case of recognizing dysfunctions of the autonomic nervous system.
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Autonomic diseases – what are they?
Autonomic dysfunction is a general term for several medical conditions in which the autonomic nervous system (ANS) is not working properly. Dysautonomia is a type of neuropathy that affects the nerves that carry information from the brain and spinal cord to the heart, bladder, pupils, sweat glands, and blood vessels.
Neuropathy is a condition affecting the peripheral nerves (other than spinal core and brain nerves). Peripheral neuropathy can begin slowly, increasing the field of influence – it is then called chronic. The second form is emergency neuropathy. Both states can be permanent or reversible. Dysautonomia can be experienced in many ways, depending on the type of organ that is most affected. These can be, for example, difficulty maintaining a specific body position or digestive problems.
Complex Regional Pain Syndrome
One of the disorders of the autonomic nervous system is Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). CRPS is a rare disease syndrome characterized by pain and swelling of the limbs, combined with circulatory disorders, skin trophic changes, and osteoporosis. It is a chronic, exacerbated limb disease. People over the age of 40, most often develop this disease – women are three times more at risk than men. It is believed that the cause of this syndrome is the abnormal activity of the sympathetic nerves innervating a given limb.
This disease has three phases. In the first phase, sharp pain and swelling of the limbs are observed, along with noticeable warming of the legs and arms, and excessive skin tenderness. Pain and limited mobility are felt in the joints. The second phase is skin atrophy, which has become extremely thin before. This phrase appears within 3-6 months. The third and last stage is characterized by further skin atrophy and contractures within the joints. X-ray examination often indicates the presence of bone atrophy. It’s not easy to diagnose it but here you can find out how to diagnose CRPS.
The occurrence of EDS is caused by a disorder of the structure and function of collagen in connective tissue. Skin without collagen loses its elasticity and strength; it becomes stretchy, susceptible to mechanical injuries and wounds. Difficulties in wound healing are also a direct consequence of the reduced amount of this protein.
The EDS syndrome does not have one clinical form in terms of symptoms. It is characterized by the occurrence of soft, stretchy skin, which is prone to bruising and swelling, the fragility of large blood vessels, ruptures, or damage to internal organs, e.g., the uterus during pregnancy. The consequences of joint instability may be recurrent arthritis and pain. The latter intensifies with age and physical effort.
Multiple system atrophy
In many ways, it resembles Parkinson’s disease. Typically, multiple system atrophy (MSA) occurs between 50 and 60 years of age, but there is a possibility that the disease will occur at a younger age. The cause of the symptoms of multiple system atrophy is a change in the nervous tissue. In the course of the disease, there is a progressive loss of neurons and oligodendrocytes. Astrocytes replace defects of these elements of the nerve tissue – such pathologies occur in many different places within the central nervous system. Usually, the first problems that appear are disorders of the autonomic nervous system that may lead to the wrong diagnosis – most patients with MSA initially experience a slowdown similar to that found in Parkinson’s disease (primarily involving difficulty in initiating motor activity).
Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome
Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) is a disorder of the function of the autonomic system characterized by signs of intolerance to vertical body posture. Symptoms are palpitations, dizziness, anxiety, fatigue, excessive sweating, which may also be accompanied by fainting. The above symptoms do not occur in the supine position. One of the criteria for diagnosing POTS is an increase in heart rate of about 30 beats per minute within 5-30 minutes after a change in body position from lying to standing. The above symptoms lead to limited daily life activity of patients, sometimes even to various degrees of disability. The diagnosis should include the impact of the use of certain drugs on the function of the autonomic nervous system (e.g., vasodilators, diuretics, antidepressants), as well as other diseases that may cause tachycardia.
Dysfunctions of the autonomic system may appear in people not only in connection with the development of various diseases. It is noticeable, however, that the functioning of this part of the nervous system gradually deteriorates with age. Among other things, older people are at increased risk of experiencing ANS disorders. Autonomic nervous system ailments are not that easy to treat; only early diagnosis and treatment can bring relief to the patient.