The Autonomic Clinic is integrated in the Department of Neurological Sciences at Rush University Medical Center. It combines clinical testing and treatment expertise for patients with autonomic disorders.
The autonomic nervous system regulates virtually all of our body functions and systems, such as blood pressure, pulse, body temperature, breathing, sweating, bowel function and sleep patterns. The autonomic nervous system is made up of three parts, including the following:
- The sympathetic nervous system, which tends to increase and accelerate or speed up body functions
- The parasympathetic nervous system, which tends to slow down, relax and put the brakes on body functions
- The enteric nervous system, which regulates the function of the gastrointestinal tract
The autonomic system is also connected with the small nerve fibers in the skin, muscle and bone. These small nerve fibers transmit pain and temperature changes to the brain. They also innervate the sweat glands and blood vessels.
In a normal situation, the three divisions of the autonomic nervous system work together to control these functions in a continuous manner, reacting to changes of both inner and outer body conditions.
When the autonomic nervous system becomes imbalanced, individuals have symptoms. This faulty regulation of the autonomic system is referred to as “autonomic dysfunction” (dysautonomia). The symptoms of autonomic dysfunction may occur during stress (psychological, surgical, in the setting of another illness like the flu, accidents), and may occur during exercise or at rest. They may therefore be transient or persistent. Symptoms usually belong to other organ systems and may be difficult to attribute to the autonomic system. Patients may have: chronic pain, sleep problems/fatigue, heart problems (palpitations, dizzy spells, fainting spells), lung problems (shortness of breath), abdominal problems (heartburn, trouble swallowing, diarrhea/constipation), bladder problems, sweating too much or not enough, trouble with body temperature regulation, sexual dysfunction.
At Rush, evaluation for an autonomic disorder involves a physician taking a complete personal and family history and performing a comprehensive neurological and general clinical examination. The Autonomic Clinic at Rush University combines board-certified expertise in autonomic disorders and state-of-the-art, noninvasive autonomic testing laboratory facilities.
We believe it is important to recognize autonomic dysfunction and manage it proactively with the help of trained medical professionals. We view the Autonomic Clinic at Rush University as a gateway to a team approach across multiple specialties on our campus. This multidisciplinary approach is meant to bring meaningful improvement to the daily function of patients with autonomic disorders.