Neurology &
Neurological Sciences
The Stanford Autonomic Disorders Program

The Stanford Autonomic Disorders Program

The autonomic nervous system plays an important role in interfacing the organism internal and external milieux, ensuring body homeostasis: cardiovascular and respiratory control, body temperature regulation, gastrointestinal motility, urinary function, sexual function, and metabolic and endocrine physiology.  The autonomic system also produces the adaptive responses to stress, and is important in integrating the behavioral and physiologic responses.

Autonomic disorders are fairly common, and as might be expected, can be quite debilitating.  However, a shortcoming in this field has been the difficulty in devising relatively non-invasive methods for reliable testing.  For instance, it is estimated that autonomic dysfunction leading to positional related symptoms of dizziness, lightheadedness and fainting, termed orthostatic intolerance, affects at least 2-3% of the USA population in general, and at least 4% of all children and adolescents.  In the elderly, autonomic dysfunction is a significant contributor to the imbalance and dizziness, leading to risky falls.  In addition to fainting and falling, other common and disabling conditions associated with autonomic disorders include impaired gastrointestinal motility (gastroparesis, cyclic vomiting, irritable bowel syndrome); various painful conditions such as painful neuropathies, reflex sympathetic dystrophy, fibromyalgia, and migraine; disorders of regulation of body temperature; sweating disorders, both excessive and lack of sweating; frequent urinary urgency or inability to urinate; sexual dysfunction such as premature erectile dysfunction; and a variety of sleep-related disturbances including abnormal breathing.

 

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