It is almost October, and with that comes Halloween, National Teacher’s day, and Dysautonomia Awareness. But with that comes many questions. Mainly, what is dysautonomia? It sounds like a terrible dystopian world. Sometimes, it’s just as much a nightmare.
Dysautonomia is an autoimmune disorder that affects the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS is responsible for regulating all bodily functions that we don’t think about; heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, digestions, etc. Changes in postural position- laying to sitting and sitting to standing can aggravate symptoms.
It is often labeled as the most common disease you’ve never heard of. Approximately one in every hundred teenagers has dysautonomia.
Symptoms can include dizziness, fainting, migraines, nausea, and chest pain. Someone who might look perfectly normal might in fact be struggling with many difficult symptoms. Dysautonomia is an invisible illness, one even doctors can fail to see. Eight-five percent of dysautonomia patients are told that the symptoms are all in their head, or are diagnosed with a psychiatric illness rather than a physical one.
There are many different causes of dysautonomia; and sometimes there is no distinguishable cause. A common cause is an autoimmune condition such as lupus, multiple sclerosis, or celiac disease. Genetic mutations can also cause symptoms. However there is no genetic test to diagnose dysautonomia, only physical exams like the tilt-table test.
Treatment and symptom management is crucial, as there is currently no cure for dysautonomia. Treatment will often include medication, physical therapy, and a high water and high sodium diet. These things have proven effective in many patients, so bring on the popcorn!
Just because a person may be battling a chronic illness, doesn’t mean their lives are worse. People with dysautonomia laugh, cry, smile, and binge Netflix shows. Their daily routines are similar to the average person’s, just with the extra doctor’s appointment here and there. Treating them normally as you would do your other friends is sometimes the best support you can offer.
Of course, there are those with dysautonomia who struggle with symptoms more than others. Twenty-five percent of patients become too disabled to work or go to school. Despite being rare, these people exist and can do anything they set their mind to.
Apex High School has approximately 2,300 students. This means that there is roughly twenty-three students who have dysautonomia, even if they haven’t been diagnosed yet.
On average it takes five years and eleven months to get a diagnosis. That is why it is so important to raise awareness. More awareness means not only helping people come to a diagnosis, but also help those you have already been diagnosed. These people can feel isolated and different, but with awareness comes acceptance.
It is time for October to be filled with orange pumpkin, purple bats, and turquoise warriors. Join team turquoise to show your support for fellow students and fellow friends.