Abnormal autonomic function can be associated with a diverse array of symptoms. These symptoms may include fatigue, sleep disturbances, altered cognitive function, cold or heat intolerance, headaches, and bladder or bowel dysfunction.
Fatigue is not the same as being tired. Fatigue doesn’t respond to sleep as tiredness would. Fatigue is a lack of energy. In some cases it is so severe that it results in the inability to move or think. Fatigue is the most common symptom to improve after treatment and can have the biggest impact on a patient’s life. Restoring a patient’s ability to exercise can improve their overall health.
Interrupted sleep (waking up after sleeping only a few hours) is a common complaint among patients suffering from autonomic dysfunction. Following treatment, the quality and duration of sleep is typically improved. Many patients note dreaming for the first time in years.
Altered Cognitive Function (Brain Fog)
‘Brain fog’ is a common term used to describe issues related to cognition. This may include poor short-term memory, lack of concentration and trouble with word finding. Some describe being in a ‘foggy’ or ‘hazy’ state. This is the second most common symptom to improve following treatment. Restoring cognitive function can have a dramatic effect on a patient’s ability to work, interact socially, and complete tasks that require concentration. Find out more about brain fog treatment.
The body functions best at normal temperature (37C). The extremities function like radiators. By altering the amount of blood flow to the hands and feet the body can adjust its temperature. This is controlled by the autonomic nervous system, the body’s thermostat. Autonomic dysfunction results in poor thermal regulation. Patients describe ‘melting’ in the heat and becoming ‘stiff’ in cold weather. This is one of the top three symptoms to respond. For patients with severe thermal intolerance (those who must confine themselves to carefully climate controlled environments), a more normal lifestyle is possible directly following treatment.
Headaches that are present when you wake up (waking headaches) are unique from other common and better understood types of headaches and migraines. The fact that they occur during the rest period makes them distinct from migraines or tension headaches, that are not normally known to occur during sleep. Headaches upon awakening are among the set of symptoms that are highly responsive to treatment.
Bladder or Bowel Dysfunction
Bladder or Bowel Dysfunction is typically described as ‘urgency’, meaning the need to urinate immediately at the first sensation of a full bladder. Frequency, hesitancy, retention or incontinence may also be present. Constipation, rectal urgency or bowel incontinence may occur. Treatment will often result in improved bowel and bladder function. Patients with previous use of indwelling catheters may not see the same response as those not having used such devices.
Gastrointestinal symptoms such as bloating or early satiety are seen with autonomic dysfunction. If pain is severe we advise that you should seek medical advice. Digestion is regulated in large part by the autonomic system. In some cases treatment helps with symptoms related to impaired digestion. Additionally dysautonomia is a risk factor for small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). Diagnosis and treatment of SIBO is an important aspect of our program.
Abnormally increased muscle tone, sometimes painfully so. Involuntary muscle contractions may also occur. Treatment commonly decreases the abnormal muscle tone experienced with dysautonomia. This is particularly true of the muscles of the shoulders and neck. The squeezing of the chest sensation “Hug” is also relieved.
POTS (Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome)
A dramatic increase in pulse that does not lead to a decline in blood pressure when they attempt to stand (orthostatic hypotension) from a sitting or supine position. Patients experience dizziness, nausea, palpitations, heat, fatigue, and blackouts. See our page on POTS.
Driving at night is more difficult as the pupil doesn’t respond as well as it should. Autonomic control of the pupillary response improves in some patients. Night driving improves as a result.
In ability to perspire is linked is a product of autonomic dysfunction in many cases. Alternatively some patients, particularly those with Lyme Disease, there is abnormally increased sweating. This can include night sweats.