Dysautonomia Awareness Month

Oct 26, 2018

Did you know that October is Dysautonomia Awareness Month? A month dedicated to highlighting some ways in which the Autonomic Nervous System can malfunction, including Dysautonomia!

Trigger Warning - As this post is aimed at raising awareness, I wanted to showcase some of the debilitating symptoms caused by Dysautonomia using raw images. They are certainly not the most flattering photos, but I knew my mum’s sneaky hospital snaps would eventually come in handy! However, I recommend checking out some of our other blog posts if you are uncomfortable seeing images of hospital emergency rooms, intense medical treatments, and suffering patients.

3 photos of Lauren lying on a hospital bed receiving various intravenous treatments.
3 photos demonstrating how Dysautonomia affects the body.

What Is The Autonomic Nervous System?

It controls bodily functions that you don’t have to think about, such as heart rate and blood pressure regulation; digestion; sweating; stress response and bladder control.

What Is Orthostatic Hypotension?

A form of low blood pressure that occurs upon standing. This is because gravity makes the blood in your legs and abdomen pool; causing your blood pressure to decrease, due to the lack of blood circulating back to your heart. Normally, special cells sense this change and immediately signals the brain to ensure your heart beats faster and pumps more blood. Pretty impressive stuff! Although some of us don’t have this natural ability and become lightheaded; dizzy; weak; nauseous; confused and prone to fainting.

What Is Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome?

Another condition that causes a drop in blood supplied to the heart and brain upon standing. Causing your heart to race, as it tries to compensate for the drop in blood supply. Both PoTs and Orthostatic Hypotension have similar symptoms. However, PoTs can also cause heart palpitations; uncontrollable shaking; sweating; fatigue; chest pain and shortness of breath.

What Is Vasovagal Syncope?

This occurs when you faint, as your body is reacting to a trigger. Causing a sudden drop in heart rate and blood pressure, which in turn reduces blood flow to the brain. Collectively these symptoms can lead to a brief loss of consciousness. Common triggers include standing for long periods and/or suddenly changing position, heat exposure and extreme pain.

An empty resuscitation room with two portable hospital beds.
Lauren lying on a hospital bed receiving various intravenous treatments.

Autonomic Dysfunction is often associated with many medical conditions, such as Ehlers Danlos Syndrome. Whilst the symptoms linked to these dysfunctions can be severely disabling, the lack of awareness surrounding the condition makes it harder for patients to access treatments.

Like many people, I spent years trying to convince medical professionals that my health issues were real. A process that massively impacted my mental health, until I eventually received the correct diagnosis. Thankfully, I am now under the care of a fantastic doctor at the RVI Hospital in Newcastle. But for anyone suffering from a similar problem, click the links below to find a recognised expert near you. You will also find a list of generic symptom management techniques, but seeing as I am most definitely not an expert, I recommend seeking professional advice before making any changes to your management plan!

"Making the Invisible, Visible!"

Symptom Management:

1  -  Staying Hydrated
2  -  Increasing Salt Intake
3  -  Wearing Compression Stockings
4  -  Avoiding Suddenly Changing Positions
5  -  Not Drinking Caffeine & Alcohol

A pink banner with information on the writer of this blog, Lauren! Along with an image of Lauren sitting in a bright pink wheelchair smiling directly at the camera. Her fox red assistance dog is sitting to the left.
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Lauren Matthewson

Hi, I'm Lauren and I have been living with a collection of disabilities for the past 8 years. I initially had a passion for teaching children with special needs, but my health prevented me from pursuring my dream career. Despite this, I now love nothing more than sharing my experiences to help other people living with disabilities.