What causes autonomic failure?

Updated: Oct 21, 2018
  • Author: Mohini Gurme, MD; Chief Editor: Selim R Benbadis, MD  more...
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Autonomic failure has many causes and manifestations.

It may result from a primary disturbance of autonomic regulation or more commonly as a secondary effect of another systemic disorder (eg, diabetes, amyloidosis). This article focuses on primary syndromes of generalized autonomic failure and includes a discussion of pure autonomic failure and idiopathic orthostatic hypotension, autoimmune autonomic neuropathy (AAN), and multiple system atrophy (MSA). The selective sympathetic disturbance of postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) is also discussed briefly.

On clinical examination, the syndromes sometimes may be difficult to differentiate, particularly in the early stages of disease. This has led to some confusion over the nomenclature of these disorders. The terminology continues to evolve and become more precise as a result of our improving understanding of the different pathophysiologic mechanisms leading to autonomic dysfunction.

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