Autonomic Nervous System Disorders

The autonomic nervous system is part of the nervous system that consists of the following three major components:

The sympathetic nervous system, the parasympathetic nervous system and the enteric nervous system also called the "brain in the gut".

Integration of this system helps control and regulates basic body functions such as breathing, heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, sweating, sleep patterns or bowel function.

When the autonomic nervous system does not work properly, patients have an autonomic disorder or dysautonomia. Symptoms of this condition are often widespread and may include unexplained heart symptoms such as fainting, heart palpitations, dizzy spells, orthostatic intolerance (multiple symptoms on standing up), or shortness of breath. Gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea or constipation, early fullness or difficulty swallowing can be present. Genito-urinary symptoms manifest with bladder problems or sexual dysfunction while skin related symptoms present as excessive sweat or the lack of it. Body temperature dysregulation and skin mottling can cause overheating. Other frequent generalized symptoms include chronic fatigue, difficulty falling or staying asleep.

Autonomic disorders can start abruptly or develop slowly over time. Many of these symptoms can worsen during stressful situations (psychological stress or illness), exercise, or even rest and can appear at any age.

Patients who are experiencing difficult to diagnose symptoms involving heart, bladder, bowel, sweating among or other symptoms may have an underlying autonomic disorder and there are many causes of autonomic disease. Conditions that directly damage your autonomic nerves, such as diabetes, can increase your risk for autonomic dysfunction. Similarly, if you are being treated for cancer with a drug that is known to cause nerve damage, your doctor can make the diagnosis based on your signs and symptoms. Other well described causes of dysautonomia include multiple sclerosis, autoimmune disorders such as Sjogren’s, paraneoplastic conditions, and genetic causes. Also, some neurodegenerative disorders such as Multisystem Atrophy or Parkinson’s disease cause dysautonomia.

Scheduling an appointment

To schedule an appointment please call our Kirkland office at 425-899-6200. Your PCP or referring physician can also fax a referral to 425-899-6220. Please feel free to contact us if you have any questions.

About Dr. Erik Armitano

Dr. Armitano is one of the few fellowship trained specialists in Autonomic Disorders and Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (previously termed “Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy”) in Washington State.

Learn more about Dr. Armitano