Autonomic neuropathy life expectancy: Autonomic neuropathy is not a specific disease but a group of symptoms that occur when the nerves which manage everyday bodily functions are damaged, including heart rate, sweating, blood pressure, digestions, and bowel and bladder emptying.
The nerves involved carry information from the brain and spinal cord to the heart, blood vessel, intestines, bladder, pupils, and sweat glands.
As the group of symptoms associated with autonomic neuropathy is so broad, and nerves can be damaged in a vast number of ways, there are several disorders and diseases associated with the disorder.
These can include diabetes (or diabetic neuropathy), inflammatory nerve conditions such as Guillain-Barre Syndrome, HIV/AIDS, alcohol abuse, disorders involving scarring of tissues around the nerves, hereditary nerve disorders, spinal cord injuries, multiple sclerosis, Parkinson's disease, or more generalized injury involving the nerves.
Autonomic neuropathy life expectancy: The life expectancy of someone with autonomic neuropathy, and the rate at which their condition might deteriorate, can vary widely. Indeed, generally speaking, a sufferer's prognosis can be determined better by the causes of their autonomic neuropathy.
Patients being treated for multiple sclerosis, for example, despite it being a life-changing condition, can expect to live almost normal life spans as drugs have improved greatly over the past few decades.
Multiple system atrophy, on the other hand, a more serious cause of autonomic disorder, has a much worse prognosis. Its early symptoms are similar to those of Parkinson's disease, but the average life expectancy of sufferers is only about five to ten years from their diagnosis. Currently, there are no cures or treatments which are able to slow the disease down.
Autonomic neuropathy life expectancy: Fortunately, conditions such as multiple system atrophy are rare, and the discomfort and pain associated with autonomic neuropathy can be dealt with through treatments and home care.
The symptoms, which tend to develop slowly over a number of years, and the extent to which people's lives are affected by autonomic neuropathy, vary depending on the nerves affected.
Stomach and intestinal issues may include constipation, nausea after ingesting food, swallowing problems, diarrhea, feeling full easily, problems controlling bowel movements, swollen abdomen, and vomiting of undigested food.
Of course, these symptoms are often embarrassing and can cause a person a lot of pain, so it is imperative that they are dealt with either by taking medicines which help the stomach move food through faster, ensuring that meals are eaten frequently and in the form of small portions, and making small lifestyle changes such as sleeping with the head raised.
For autonomic neuropathy affecting the heart and lungs, symptoms may include an abnormal heart rate or rhythm, blood pressure changes depending on a person's position, dizziness when standing, high blood pressure, and shortness of breath with activity or exercise.
In order to combat these symptoms and get a patient up and exercising again, there are simple lifestyle changes that can be made including sleeping with the head raised, adding extra salt to the diet or taking salt tablets to increase the fluid volume in blood vessels, and wearing compression stockings.
For more serious cases, it might be recommended that patients take fludrocortisone or similar drugs in order to help the body retain salt and fluid, have a pacemaker installed, or take medicines designed to treat irregular heart rhythms.
Autonomic neuropathy can also include symptoms related to the bladder including leaking urine, a feeling of incompleteness when emptying the bladder, and difficulty beginning to urinate.
Again, these symptoms can be embarrassing for the affected individual, so it is important they are treated effectively with therapies such as medicines and self-care programs.
On the whole, autonomic neuropathy can be treated effectively if patients alert medical practitioners to the symptoms they are experiencing. Although the conditions associated with autonomic neuropathy can be serious, they are not always life threatening and do not always affect life expectancy.
In this way, it is important that sufferers of the symptoms described seek medical attention as soon as problems arise and look out for any other unusual occurrences such as sweating too much, heat intolerance, sexual problems, or unintended weight loss.