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Autonomic neuropathy

  • Definition

    Autonomic neuropathy is a group of symptoms that occur when there is damage to the nerves that manage every day body functions such as blood pressure, heart rate, bowel and bladder emptying, and digestion.


    Alternative Names

    Neuropathy - autonomic


    Causes, incidence, and risk factors

    Autonomic neuropathy is a form of peripheral neuropathy. It 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 affects the function of 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).

    Autonomic neuropathy affects the nerves that regulate vital functions, including the heart muscle and smooth muscles.

    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
    • Disorders involving scarring and hardening (sclerosis) tissues
    • Guillain Barre syndrome or other diseases that inflame nerves
    • HIV and AIDS
    • Inherited nerve disorders
    • Parkinson's disease
    • Surgery or injury involving the nerves
    • Use of anticholinergic medications