I was diagnosed with dysautonomia in June, 2009. I was shown where my "acquired chiari" (cerebellar tonsils/herniation) is pressing against my brainstem. It was explained that if I do much activity or get too excited about things, it causes my blood pressure to rise, and that causes even more pressure inside of my head including the cerebral spinal fluid (CSF) and blood. That rise of fluid pressure inside my head causes tissue compression.
Here are some links regarding dysautonomia:
Here is an excerpt from another website:
The autonomic nervous system is the "automatic" or "unconscious" nervous system. It controls and regulates virtually all of our body functions and systems, such as blood pressure, pulse, body temperature, breathing, sweating, bowel function and sleep patterns. The autonomic nervous system is made up of two parts: the sympathetic nervous system tends to increase and accelerate or speed up body functions, the parasympathetic nervous system tends to slow down, relax, and put the breaks on body functions. In a normal situation, the two divisions of the autonomic nervous system work together to control these functions in a continuous manner reacting normally to stimulus.
When the autonomic nervous system becomes "out of balance," it is similar to a car that needs a tune-up. When this occurs, these body functions may either speed up or slow down at inappropriate times with a very noticeable effect on the person. This may occur for no apparent reason. You may be sitting quietly at home reading or watching television, driving down the highway or shopping for groceries in a store. The autonomic nervous system suddenly decides to send out a burst of signals to speed up all body processes. When this occurs the symptoms may be extremely severe and frightening. This faulty regulation of the autonomic system is referred to as "dysautonomia." It may also occur as a response to stress whether it be emotional or physical. Such things as a severe illness, job stress, family problems, buying or building a house, a move cross country, going off to college, having a child and similar type occurrences in our life may trigger the autonomic system to react inappropriately. While these symptoms are extremely frightening, frustrating and uncomfortable, it is not life threatening. However, if left untreated, it may become lifestyle threatening.
There is also something called Autonomic Dysreflexia.
So, what is Autonomic Dysreflexia?
Most patients who are paraplegics and quadraplegics suffer AD. Here is some information on it...
Sweating. The first sign is usually profuse sweating on the face and neck - that is, above the level of the injury.
Mild Increase in Blood Pressure (Up to 140/90). Since the typical resting blood pressure (BP) for a quadriplegic is 90/60 (which is low normal), even a BP of 120/80 could suggest dysreflexia. Until the blood pressure reaches higher levels, the situation is not urgent, but it is important to try to identify and eliminate the cause before this happens.
Severe Dysreflexia - A Medical Emergency!
Hypertension. When the BP reaches 200/100 or higher, it should be considered an emergency because the sudden change from very low to very high blood pressure can lead to convulsions, stroke, hemorrhage or even death. The BP can rise quickly during an episode of dysreflexia, so it is important to check the BP frequently, at least every 5-10 minutes until the cause has been found and eliminated.
Pounding Headache. The headache is due to the sudden elevation of blood pressure; however, the severity of the headache is not necessarily related to the severity of the hypertension. Therefore, headache is not a reliable indicator of when the BP is dangerously high. A headache associated with normal blood pressure is not due to dysreflexia.
Heart Rate Changes. The heart rate can either be very slow (bradycardia) or very fast (tachycardia) during an episode, so heart rate alone does not help to make the diagnosis.
Flushing (Reddening) of the Face and Neck (above the level of SCI) associated with pale, cold skin on the trunk and extremities (below the SCI).
Less common symptoms include nasal congestion, anxiety, nausea, blurred vision, difficulty breathing, increased spasticity, chest pain and "goose bumps." However, these symptoms alone do not suggest dysreflexia. http://www.spinalcord.ar.gov/Fact%20Sheets%20html/dysreflexia.html
I would be somewhere between mild and severe. My symptoms from this list are: sweating, mild to high increase in blood pressure; heart rate changes; flushing; nasal congestion; anxiety; nausea; blurred vision; difficulty breathing; goose bumps.
Another site mentions "pilo-erection," the painful feeling on the scalp as the hair follicles go erect. If I brush against my hair at those times, it is quite painful.
What's the difference between the two, Dysautonomia and Autonomic Dysreflexia?
Well, I'm not sure. What I've read describes the former as being an out of balance autonomic system. Certain connective tissue diseases, like Marfans, Ehlers Danlos Syndrome and POTS are included as causes for Dysautonomia. Along with brain injury.
The AD, the causes are more trauma-related, and information explains that it is an interruption in the signals that are flowing up and down the spinal cord.
So, I think the two are at times related and have things in common...but at other times, you cannot simply substitute one for the other. I haven't seen anyone who seems to care enough to listen to figure this out for me. Oh, the nice neurologist who told me I have dysautonomia seemed to listen, and he did show me how the cerebellar tonsils are compressing the brainstem on my MRIs, BUT...I wasn't exactly sure that he understood what the AD was...and how that might relate to me.
Most of the time, I would say that it is AD that I suffer from.
My next post will explain why I was researching this out today...
but certainly, the episode I experienced today would fall right into line with the increased brainstem compression symptoms I've been having lately...
and perhaps...it really doesn't matter.
Again...I don't know. Someone knows out there. Some brilliant neurosurgeon who cares enough to listen to me and dig deeper and listen longer and care enough...
I haven't met him yet, though.