Neurosciences (Neurology & Neurosurgery)

Autonomic Nervous System Testing & Treatment

Specialized tests can identify imbalances in the part of the body that controls many "autonomic," or automatic, processes. These include:
  • Heart rate
  • Blood pressure
  • Gastrointestinal function
  • Sweating
People suffering from disorders of the autonomic system may experience a variety of symptoms:
  • Lightheadedness or fainting
  • Dizziness
  • Unsteady walking
  • Fatigue
  • Nausea
  • Chest palpitations
  • Bladder urgency or frequency
  • Bloating or cramping after meals
  • Skin color changes
  • Abnormal sweating
For some, these symptoms may be mild and occur only once in a while. For others, symptoms may occur more frequently and be more severe. It is important to exclude other medical conditions that have similar symptoms, such as diabetes or Parkinson's disease, before linking them to autonomic problems.

ANS Tests
Testing the autonomic system provides information about the nature and severity of autonomic disorders. Heart rate, blood pressure and sweat function are all measured. The tests are noninvasive and painless, and are approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Sessions usually last 60-90 minutes, depending on the number of tests administered.  

Treating Autonomic Disorders
Treatment can include medications and physical therapy, depending on the problem. Because each patient is unique, the care plan is individualized.

For example:
  • To increase total blood volume, a patient may increase fluid or salt intake. Medications can be prescribed.
  • Beta blocker medications may be used to quiet the sympathetic nervous system and prevent abnormal increases in heart rate.
  • Physical therapy can play a role in treating low blood pressure and dizziness. Specific maneuvers can be used to avert or at least lessen these and other symptoms.
Appointments
To schedule an appointment call the Autonomic Function Laboratory at 203-863-3164.

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