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NINDS Dysautonomia Information Page

Synonym(s):   Autonomic Dysfunction, Familial Dysautonomia, Riley-Day Syndrome

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What is Dysautonomia?

Dysautonomia refers to a disorder of autonomic nervous system (ANS) function that generally involves failure of the sympathetic or parasympathetic components of the ANS, but dysautonomia involving excessive or overactive ANS actions also can occur. 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 can include dysautonomia. Dysautonomia also can occur as a primary condition or in association with degenerative neurological diseases such as Parkinson's disease. Other diseases with generalized, primary dysautonomia include multiple system atrophy and familial dysautonomia. Hallmarks of generalized dysautonomia due to sympathetic failure are impotence (in men) and a fall in blood pressure during standing (orthostatic hypotension). Excessive sympathetic activity can present as hypertension or a rapid pulse rate.

Is there any treatment?

There is usually no cure for dysautonomia. Secondary forms may improve with treatment of the underlying disease. In many cases treatment of primary dysautonomia is symptomatic and supportive. Measures to combat orthostatic hypotension include elevation of the head of the bed, water bolus (rapid infusion of water given intravenously), a high-salt diet, and drugs such as fludrocortisone and midodrine.

What is the prognosis?

The outlook for individuals with dysautonomia depends on the particular diagnostic category. People with chronic, progressive, generalized dysautonomia in the setting of central nervous system degeneration have a generally poor long-term prognosis. Death can occur from pneumonia, acute respiratory failure, or sudden cardiopulmonary arrest.

What research is being done?

The NINDS supports and conducts research on dysautonomia. This research aims to discover ways to diagnose, treat, and, ultimately, prevent these disorders.

NIH Patient Recruitment for Dysautonomia Clinical Trials


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National Dysautonomia Research Foundation
P.O. Box 301
Red Wing, MN   55066-0301
Tel: 651-327-0367
Fax: 651-267-0524

National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD)
55 Kenosia Avenue
Danbury, CT   06810
Tel: 203-744-0100 Voice Mail 800-999-NORD (6673)
Fax: 203-798-2291

Dysautonomia Foundation
315 W. 39th Street
Suite 701
New York, NY   10018
Tel: 212-279-1066
Fax: 212-279-2066

Familial Dysautonomia Hope Foundation, Inc. (FD Hope)
121 South Estes Drive
Suite 205-D
Chapel Hill, NC   27514-2868
Tel: 919-969-1414

The Multiple System Atrophy Coalition
9935-D Rea Road
Charlotte, NC   28227
Tel: 866-737-5999

Dysautonomia Youth Network of America, Inc.
1301 Greengate Court
Waldorf, MD   20601
Tel: 301-705-6995
Fax: 301-638-DYNA

Related NINDS Publications and Information

Prepared by:
Office of Communications and Public Liaison
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, MD 20892

NINDS health-related material is provided for information purposes only and does not necessarily represent endorsement by or an official position of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke or any other Federal agency. Advice on the treatment or care of an individual patient should be obtained through consultation with a physician who has examined that patient or is familiar with that patient's medical history.

All NINDS-prepared information is in the public domain and may be freely copied. Credit to the NINDS or the NIH is appreciated.

Last updated August 11, 2015