Sunday, 26 October 2014

October means: Dysautonomia Awareness Month


So I've talked about the two more well known things associated with October but today it's time to mention another thing associated with October that is a lot less common knowledge. And will mark the first post of my making the invisible visible series, in which I hope to raise awareness of a number of invisible illnesses. And that is dysautonomia. Have you heard of this? Perhaps some people have. Can you pronounce it? I can't. But despite my struggle in saying it today as part of Dysautonomia Awareness Month I hope to at least ensure a few more people have heard of it and know what it is.

Dysautonomia is a term that means a disorder of the automatic nervous system function. Already sounding confusing? Our automatic nervous system is responsible for telling our bodies to do the things that we do in a way without thinking. Our brains just tell certain thinks to happen and they do, unlike say brushing our teeth where we have to exercise some thought and actually be taught this behaviour. Whereas automatic responses are part of our natural chemistry. So to give you some examples of the automatic nervous system in action; our hearts pumping blood around our bodies, breathing, food digestion and even blinking.

Dysautonomia is a broad term for the many different illnesses and conditions that effect the automatic nervous systemss in some way. Some are sole illnesses/conditions such as high blood pressure. Whilst others may be effected or symptomatic of other illnesses. For example Diabetes, which effects the automatic system of being able to produce insulin and therefore treatment needs to be taken to assist that response. During medical investigations  unnderlying causes should be investigated when reaching a diagnosis.

 There are two types, ones in which there is a failing in the automatic nervous system, meaning that certain functions are not working as they should. For example orthostatic hypotension, the dropping of blood pressure upon standing as can be seen in POTS patients. The next type is where the automatic nervous system  might be working to excess. For example hypertension or rapid pulse rate.

There is also a condition called familial dysautonomia which is a genetic problem that affects people from birth. It is a rare condition but it can cause life threatening symptoms.

Dysautonomia is what is considered an 'invisible' illness, in that symptoms are not apparent to others. They would likely think there is nothing wrong with the sufferer, given that symptoms are mostly  internal.

Symptoms can include:

* Light headedness

* Fainting

* malnutrition

* digestive system problems

* frequent vomitting

* unstable blood pressure

* unstable heart rate

* Poor kidney function

Over 25 million people suffer with some form of dysautonomia. Yet there is no cure for most. Only management treatments. However ongoing research is being undertaken into the many illnesses that fall into the dysautonomia bracket. And fortunately the mortality rate for children with familial dysautonomia is improving with the help of this research.

It's likely I will soon write more posts on dysautinomia with more specific details of different conditions. Below I've included the sites I used to help research  this post. Do take a look if you would like to learn more. Also go visit Sophia's blog. She suffers from POTS and has done a few posts for dysautonomia awareness week.
Sian x

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