Definition of Dysautonomia: Treatment, Prognosis and Advances

What is it? Dysautonomia refers to a disorder of autonomic nervous system function (ANS).

Most physicians consider dysautonomia the failure of the sympathetic or parasympathetic components of SNA, but dysautonomia that involves excessive SNA activities may also occur.

The dysautonomia can be local, as in reflex sympathetic dystrophy, or generalized, as in pure autonomic failure. It can be acute and reversible, as in Guillain-Barre syndrome, or chronic and progressive.

Several common conditions such as diabetes and alcoholism may include dysautonomia. It can also occur as a primary condition or be associated with degenerative neurological diseases such as Parkinson’s disease.

Other diseases with primary generalized dysautonomia include multisystem atrophy and familial dysautonomia.

The characteristics of generalized dysautonomia due to a favorable failure are impotence (in men) and a drop in blood pressure when standing (orthostatic hypotension). Excessive sympathetic activity may present as hypertension or a rapid pulse.

Is there any treatment?

There is no cure for this disease. Secondary forms may improve with the treatment of the underlying condition.


In many cases, the treatment of the main dysautonomia is symptomatic and supportive. Measures to combat orthostatic hypotension include raising the head of the bed, frequent small meals, a diet high in salt, and medications such as fludrocortisone, midodrine, and ephedrine.

What is the prognosis?

The outlook for people with dysautonomia depends on the particular diagnosis category. People with chronic progressive dysautonomia, widespread in the environment of central nervous system degeneration, have a poor long-term prognosis.

Death can occur due to pneumonia, acute respiratory failure, or sudden cardiorespiratory arrest.

What research is being done?

The NINDS – for its acronym in English – (National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke) supports and researches dysautonomia. This research aims to discover ways to diagnose, treat, and prevent these disorders.