Do any of these symptoms sound familiar?
- Dizziness and fainting when you stand up
- Difficulty digesting food and feeling really full when you’ve barely eaten anything
- Abnormal perspiration – either sweating excessively or barely at all
- Intolerance for exercise – no, not that you just hate it but your heart rate doesn’t adjust as it should
- Slow pupil reaction so that your eyes don’t adjust quickly to changes in light
- Urinary problems like difficulty starting or inability to completely empty your bladder
If they do, you could have autonomic neuropathy. Especially if you have diabetes, your immune system is compromised by chemotherapy, HIV/AIDS, Parkinson’s disease, lupus, Guillian-Barre or any other chronic medical condition.
You need to see a doctor immediately. A good place to start would be a physician well versed in diagnosing and treating nerve disease and damage, like your local clinician who specializes in our treatment protocol.
What Is Autonomic Neuropathy?
Autonomic neuropathy in itself is not a disease. It’s a type of peripheral neuropathy that affects the nerves that control involuntary body functions like heart rate, blood pressure, digestion and perspiration. The nerves are damaged and don’t function properly leading to a break down of the signals between the brain and the parts of the body affected by the autonomic nervous system like the heart, blood vessels, digestive system and sweat glands.
That can lead to your body being unable to regulate your heart rate or your blood pressure, an inability to properly digest your food, urinary problems, even being unable to sweat in order to cool your body down when you exercise.
Often, autonomic neuropathy is caused by other diseases or medical conditions so if you suffer from:
- Systemic lupus
- Parkinson’s disease
Or any number of other chronic illnesses, you stand a much higher risk of developing autonomic neuropathy. Your best course of action is not to wait until you develop symptoms. Begin a course of preventative treatment and monitoring with a clinician to lessen your chances of developing autonomic neuropathy.
How Will The Clinician Diagnose My Autonomic Neuropathy?
If you have diabetes, cancer, HIV/AIDs or any of the other diseases or chronic conditions that can cause autonomic neuropathy, it’s much easier to diagnose autonomic neuropathy. After all, as a specialist in nerve damage and treatment, your clinician is very familiar with your symptoms and the best course of treatment.
If you have symptoms of autonomic neuropathy and don’t have any of the underlying conditions, your diagnosis will be a little tougher but not impossible.
Either way, your clinician will take a very thorough history and physical. Make sure you have a list of all your symptoms, when they began, how severe they are, what helps your symptoms or makes them worse, and any and all medications your currently take (including over the counter medications, herbal supplements or vitamins).
Be honest with your clinician about your diet, alcohol intake, frequency of exercise, history of drug use and smoking. If you don’t tell the truth, you’re not giving your clinician a clear picture of your physical condition. That’s like asking him to drive you from Montreal to Mexico City without a map or a GPS. You may eventually get to where you want to be, but it’s highly unlikely.
Once your history and physical are completed, your clinician will order some tests. Depending upon your actual symptoms and which systems seem to be affected, these tests might include:
- Urinalysis and bladder function tests
- Thermoregulatory and/or QSART sweat tests
- Gastrointestinal tests
- Breathing tests
- Tilt-table tests (to test your heart rate and blood pressure regulation). Once your tests are completed and your clinician determines you have autonomic neuropathy, it’s time for treatment.
Treatment and Prognosis
Our clinicians are well versed in treating all types of peripheral neuropathy, including autonomic neuropathy. They adhere to a very specialized treatment protocol that was developed specifically for patients suffering from neuropathy. That’s why their treatments have been so successful – neuropathy in all its forms is what they do.
Autonomic neuropathy is a chronic condition but it can be treated and you can do things to help relieve your symptoms.
Your clinician will work with you and your other physicians to treat your neuropathy and manage your underlying condition. They do this through:
Diet Planning and Nutritional Support
You need to give your body the nutrition it needs to heal.
If you have gastrointestinal issues caused by autonomic neuropathy, you need to make sure you’re getting enough fiber and fluids to help your body function properly.
If you have diabetes, you need to follow a diet specifically designed for diabetics and to control your blood sugar.
If your autonomic neuropathy affects your urinary system, you need to retrain your bladder. You can do this by following a schedule of when to drink and when to empty your bladder to slowly increase your bladder’s capacity.
Individually Designed Exercise Programs
If you experience exercise intolerance or blood pressure problems resulting from autonomic neuropathy, you have to be every careful with your exercise program. Make sure that you don’t overexert yourself, take it slowly. Your clinician can design an exercise program specifically for you that will allow you to exercise but won’t push you beyond what your body is capable of. And, even more importantly, they will continually monitor your progress and adjust your program as needed.
If your autonomic neuropathy causes dizziness when you stand up, then do it slowly and in stages. Flex your feet or grip your hands several times before you attempt to stand to increase the flow of blood to your hands and feet. Try just sitting on the side of your bed in the morning for a few minutes before you try to stand.
Change the amount and frequency of your meals if you have digestive problems.
Don’t try to do everything all at once. Decide what really needs to be done each day and do what you can. Autonomic neuropathy is a chronic disorder and living with any chronic condition requires adaptations. Your clinician knows this all too well and will work with you to manage your level of stress and change your daily routines to help you manage your condition and your life.
All of these changes in conjunction with medications, where needed, will make it easier to live with autonomic neuropathy and lessen the chances of serious complications. Early intervention with a NeuropathyDR® clinician is still the best policy if you have any of the underlying conditions that can cause autonomic neuropathy. But if you already have symptoms, start treatment immediately.