Autonomic neuropathy is a nerve disorder that affects the autonomic nervous system. It disrupts the involuntary functions of the body such as heart rate, blood pressure, body temperature, digestion, etc. It usually appears as a complication of diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, and other diseases. These diseases render damage to the nerves which are usually irreversible. It affects a single organ or many organs at a time. It ranges from mild to severe. If it involves heart, then there is a risk of developing life-threatening consequences. Its symptoms involve rapid heart rate, low blood pressure, dizziness while standing up, and many others. Lifestyle modifications may help in its improvement with delays in the progress of the disease.
Lifestyle Changes For Autonomic Neuropathy
Autonomic neuropathy is a disorder of nerves that influences the involuntary functions of the body. It is not a disease but a condition that appears due to damage to the nerves of the autonomic nervous system. It disturbs the flow of signals between the brain and the autonomic nervous system. It may disrupt one or more involuntary functions of the body. It may affect one or more organs at a time. It may affect the heart, blood vessels, sweat glands, bladder, and sex organs.(1)
The effects of Autonomic neuropathy can be reduced by following a healthy lifestyle discussed below-
Postural Changes- standing up quickly may cause a lowering in blood pressure in autonomic neuropathy. To avoid this, you should stand up slowly to avoid dizziness. Sit straight after waking up keeping legs down over the side of the bed for a few minutes. To increase sufficient blood flow to the extremities, it is advised to flex the feet and make fists for a while before standing up.(3)
Elevate The Bed- to raise low blood pressure, raise the side of the bed where legs are positioned with pillows or blocks or risers by 4 inches.(3)
Dietary Changes- in autonomic neuropathy, it is common to have digestive problems. To deal with digestive problems, it is advised to have small meals at frequent intervals. You should increase the intake of fluids to rectify the digestion problems. You should introduce low-fat, high-fiber food for better digestion. You should avoid junk and fried food especially the food containing lactose and gluten.(3)
Control Of Sugar Levels- diabetes is the main cause of autonomic neuropathy. The control of blood sugar levels may reduce the symptoms of autonomic neuropathy and also aid in the prevention and progress of the condition.(3)
Regular Exercises- daily exercises can boost the overall health status of the patient. It also aids to reduce weight to gain other health benefits.(2)
Cessation Of Smoking And Alcohol- avoidance of smoking and alcohol enhance one’s health.(2)
Risk Factors For Autonomic Neuropathy
The risk factors for AN include-
- Old age
- High cholesterol levels
- Parkinson’s disease
Symptoms Of Autonomic Neuropathy
Autonomic neuropathy is itself complication of diseases and conditions mentioned above. Its symptoms depend on the part or organ affected. Its symptoms involve-
- Nausea while eating
- Disturbances in bowel movements
- Dizziness or fainting while standing up
- Frequent urinary infections
- Urine incontinence
- Incomplete emptying of the bladder
- Vomiting of undigested food
- Loss of appetite
- Frequent indigestion
- Swelling in the abdomen
- Erectile dysfunction
- Vaginal dryness
- Premature ejaculation
- Difficulty in achieving orgasm in women
- Difficulty in breathing
- Rapid heart rate
- Heart attack without warning signs
- Excess sweating or lack of sweating
- Dry skin
- Unexplained weight loss
- Low glucose levels
Autonomic neuropathy can be managed successfully with treatment and lifestyle changes. Lifestyle changes involve postural changes, the elevation of the bed, dietary changes, control of sugar levels, and avoidance of smoking and alcohol.
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