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Understanding Autonomic Nervous System Testing



It can be intimidating and frightening to have to go for testing, especially when it sounds unfamiliar or even foreign. If your doctor has said that you need to go for an autonomic nervous system test, you probably have tons of questions and thoughts racing through your mind.

While the autonomic nervous system is very complex, that does not mean you can’t or shouldn’t be able to understand what is going on with your health. By better understanding the test and why your doctor is sending you for it, you will no longer have to fear it. Here is what you need to know about autonomic nervous system testing.

What Does the Autonomic Nervous System Do?

The autonomic nervous system is responsible for maintaining the homeostasis of many functions of the body, according to the University of Washington Harborview Medical Center. It controls functions such as blood pressure, body temperature, pupil size, urinary functioning, sweating, digestion, and sexual functioning.

Nearly 10 percent of the U.S. population will acquire an autonomic disorder that will need medical attention, according to Medscape’s eMedicine. There are a number of different conditions that are classified as autonomic nervous system disorders, but the specific one you may have will need testing to be properly diagnosed.

Autonomic nervous system disorders do not always occur alone, which can make diagnosing on symptoms alone difficult. Many times they occur alongside another disease such as Parkinson’s, Guillain-Barre syndrome, Lyme disease, alcoholism, or diabetes.

Because of the varying degrees of the different autonomic disorders and their accompanying diseases, you really should get the testing to confirm what you have, especially if your doctor is urging you to do so. You need to remember that your doctor would not be ordering the test if he or she did not believe you could be at risk for one of these conditions, and do you really want to risk not knowing?

Why Does My Doctor Want This Testing?

Your doctor is sending you for autonomic nervous system testing because he or she believes you could have an issue within your autonomic nervous system. There are signs and symptoms of autonomic disorders, but in order to confirm them, laboratory testing needs to be done.

Some of the symptoms you may have been experiencing before your doctor ordered this testing that may have them considering an autonomic disorder include abnormal sweating, constipation, diarrhea, sexual dysfunction, dry mouths, dry eyes, incontinence, fatigue, heat intolerance, and problems with vision.

By going through this testing, your doctor can identify many disorders and illnesses in addition to autonomic disorders, including:

  • Hypertension
  • Heart abnormalities
  • Sudden death

If after all of this, you still have reservations or concerns about your autonomic nervous system test, you should speak with your doctor. Let him or her know what it is you are confused or concerned about and they will be sure to explain everything to you. Testing can be scary, but you do not need to be worried when you can get all of the information you need.