What is Dysautonomia?

As the anatomy lesson goes; the heart is connected to a mass of blood vessels both big and small that carry blood around your body – blood is important.  If we don’t have enough blood we can die.  Blood carries all sorts of important things from one place to another like oxygen, antibodies, hormones, chemicals, white blood cells and platelets etc.  When everything is working normally the heart should beat at somewhere between 60-100 beats per minute at rest and blood pressure should be between 100-140/60-90.  The two values for blood pressure are taken by measuring the pressure that blood exerts on the main arteries when it is being pushed through by the heart (when the heart contracts) and the pressure when the heart relaxes.  All this stuff is regulated by the autonomic nervous system and central nervous system and can be affected by stress placed on the body by infection, exercise, emotion, pain, fever, anxiety, drugs, fluid and electrolyte balance and oxygen and carbon dioxide levels.  Here’s an interesting link so you can check out your blood pressure and see where it sits on the chart.

Thanks for the anatomy lesson Claire, it’s great to learn something new every day but why is this relevant, you ask!  Well, a lot of people have been asking me what Dysautonomia, Neurocardiogenic syncope and the Yellow Wiggle have to do with my medical condition which for 6 years has been labeled ‘Chronic Fatigue Syndrome’ so I thought I’d be helpful and enlighten you a bit.

Dysautonomia (according to Wikipedia) is the name given to any disease or malfunction of the autonomic nervous system.  The Autonomic nervous system is part of the peripheral nervous system, a system that is mostly not consciously operated by us.  It regulates heart rate, digestion, salivation, breathing etc.  There are a few suspected reasons for the Autonomic nervous system to malfunction but very little is known about the exact mechanisms behind the what and the why.  My form of Dysautonomia is called Neurocardigenic syncope (because the cause is suspected to be a mixture of both neurological and cardiovascular) or Recurrent Vasovagal Syncope – Syncope is another word for blackout or faint, vasovagal is the name for the type of process that causes the blackout and recurrent because it keeps happening.  The vasovagal response is all to do with blood pressure no matter what triggers it.  It is the same kind of response triggered in some people who faint at the sight of blood or needles or whatever or who faint after standing up for the first time after surgery.  Basically after the trigger the blood pressure drops, this causes the brain to become starved of oxygen causing dizziness and eventually unconsciousness until an adequate supply of oxygen is re-supplied (usually quite quickly as there is no gravity for the blood to fight against when you are unconscious on the floor!

To help my body function the best it can and hopefully help it eventually return to ‘normal’ I take quite a few tablets both prescription and non-prescription.  Compared to some people I really don’t take a lot but I would obviously prefer not to take any at all!  Obviously everyone is different and what works for one does not necessarily work for all.  I have tried quite a few different treatment options in the past varying from the normal to the slightly less so.  So for me, this all works.  I know there are a lot of people out there who are sick of seeing doctor after doctor to find a solution and the only advice I can really give is keep trying, it’s best not to take your treatment into your own hands unless you have the training to do so (and even then it’s not really ideal), take any advice from any non-pharmocologically trained person with a grain of salt and always consult your treating physician before trying ANYTHING including vitamins and supplements – they may seem harmless but can cause complications if you take them when you do not require them.


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