Find information on medical topics, symptoms, drugs, procedures, news and more, written for the health care professional.

* This is the Professional Version. *

Autonomic Neuropathies

by Phillip Low, MD

Autonomic neuropathies are peripheral nerve disorders with disproportionate involvement of autonomic fibers.

The best known autonomic neuropathies are those accompanying peripheral neuropathy due to diabetes, amyloidosis, or autoimmune disorders. Autoimmune autonomic neuropathy is an idiopathic disorder that often develops after a viral infection; onset may be subacute. Autonomic insufficiency is usually a late manifestation in alcoholic neuropathy. Other causes can include toxins, drugs, and paraneoplastic syndromes.

Common symptoms of autonomic neuropathies include orthostatic hypotension, neurogenic bladder, erectile dysfunction, gastroparesis, and intractable constipation. When somatic fibers are involved, sensory loss in a stocking-and-glove distribution and distal weakness may occur (see also Peripheral Nervous System and Motor Unit Disorders).


  • Clinical evaluation

Diagnosis is based on demonstration of autonomic failure (see Overview of the Autonomic Nervous System : Evaluation) and of a specific cause of neuropathy (eg, diabetes, amyloidosis). Autoimmune autonomic neuropathy may be suspected after a viral infection. Ganglionic anti–acetylcholine receptor antibody A 3 is present in about half of patients with autoimmune autonomic neuropathy and is occasionally present in patients with other autonomic neuropathies.


Underlying disorders are treated. Autoimmune autonomic neuropathy may respond to immunotherapy; plasma exchange or IVγ-globulin can be used for more severe cases.

* This is a professional Version *