What Are the Different Types of Autonomic Nervous System Disorders?

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  • Written By: Meshell Powell
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 17 September 2019
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There are a variety of autonomic nervous system disorders that may disrupt the proper functioning of the human body. Some of the most common disorders include orthostatic hypotension and supine hypertension. Additional autonomic nervous system disorders include Horner syndrome, Shy-Drager syndrome, and complex regional pain syndrome. Problems affecting this part of the nervous system may include blood pressure fluctuations, difficulty breathing, or erectile dysfunction. Any specific questions or concerns about autonomic nervous system disorders should be discussed with a doctor or other medical professional.

Orthostatic hypotension is among the most frequently diagnosed autonomic nervous system disorders. This condition causes a sudden drop in blood pressure levels when a person stands from a seated position. Dizziness, headaches, and visual disturbances are possible symptoms of orthostatic hypotension. Similarly, supine hypertension causes blood pressure levels to increase when lying down. Elevated blood pressure levels increase the risks of cardiovascular emergencies such as heart attack or stroke.

Horner syndrome occurs as a result of damage to the facial nerves and typically involves only one side of the face. Symptoms of this condition include eyelid drooping and reduced pupil size. Treatment for Horner syndrome is not usually necessary, although an eye doctor may be consulted if vision problems develop.


Shy-Drager syndrome is one of the various types of autonomic nervous system disorders and is also referred to as multiple system atrophy. Blood pressure fluctuation, tremors, and erectile dysfunction are common symptoms of this condition. Some patients with this disorder may also experience a decreased ability to sweat, difficulty swallowing, and urinary incontinence. Severe respiratory issues may occur among those with this condition and often prove to be fatal. There is no specific treatment available for Shy-Drager syndrome, and the primary focus is on managing individual symptoms.

Complex regional pain syndrome is a disorder affecting the autonomic nervous system that causes chronic pain to develop, usually affecting the arms or the legs. Muscle spasms, swelling of the joints, and sensitivity to cold temperatures are often symptoms of this condition. Additional symptoms may include limited mobility, changes in the color of the skin, or temperature fluctuations that occur only in the affected limb. Medications, lifestyle changes, and physical therapy may be useful in treating complex regional pain syndrome as long as these treatment methods begin early in the course of the disease process. Studies have shown that the available methods of treatment for this disorder become less effective as the condition progresses, although early treatment can cause the patient to go into a state of remission, sometimes for several years at a time.


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