Diagnoses & Conditions

Autoimmune Autonomic Neuropathy

Understanding Autoimmune Autonomic Neuropathy

Autoimmune autonomic neuropathy, also known as autoimmune autonomic ganglionopathy, is a condition in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks and damages certain parts of the autonomic nervous system. Autoimmune autonomic neuropathy may be divided into two different types based on the presence of specific types of cells in the blood that normally fight infection (antibodies).

Symptoms of Autoimmune Autonomic Neuropathy

Signs and symptoms of autoimmune autonomic neuropathy usually begin in adulthood and are different from person to person. Symptoms may include severe orthostatic hypotension (low blood pressure upon standing), fainting, constipation, fixed and dilated pupils, urinary retention, and dry mouth and eyes.

Diagnosing Autoimmune Autonomic Neuropathy

The underlying cause of autoimmune autonomic neuropathy is poorly understood. Diagnosis is based on symptoms, clinical exam, and specialized laboratory tests.

Treatment of Autoimmune Autonomic Neuropathy

Treatment depends on many factors including the severity and symptoms. Because it is so rare, there is no standard treatment. About one third of people with autoimmune autonomic neuropathy get better without treatment, but the recovery is often incomplete. Treatment options include plasmapheresis, immune globulin therapy administered into the blood stream intravenously (IVIG), corticosteroids, or immunosuppressive drugs. Plasmapheresis (also known as apheresis, plasma exchange, or “plex”) is a medical procedure where a device separates whole blood into the cellular components and plasma. The plasma is then discarded and replaced with a colloid fluid, combined back with the cellular components, and returned to the same patient.


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