Infectious diseases causing autonomic dysfunction

Clin Auton Res. 2018 Feb;28(1):67-81. doi: 10.1007/s10286-017-0452-4. Epub 2017 Jul 20.


Objectives: To review infectious diseases that may cause autonomic dysfunction.

Methods: Review of published papers indexed in medline/embase.

Results: Autonomic dysfunction has been reported in retrovirus (human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), human T-lymphotropic virus), herpes viruses, flavivirus, enterovirus 71 and lyssavirus infections. Autonomic dysfunction is relatively common in HIV-infected patients and heart rate variability is reduced even in early stages of infection. Orthostatic hypotension, urinary dysfunction and hypohidrosis have been described in tropical spastic paraparesis patients. Varicella zoster reactivation from autonomic ganglia may be involved in visceral disease and chronic intestinal pseudo-obstruction. Autonomic and peripheral nervous system dysfunction may happen in acute tick-borne encephalitis virus infections. Hydrophobia, hypersalivation, dyspnea, photophobia, and piloerection are frequently observed in human rabies. Autonomic dysfunction and vagal denervation is common in Chagas disease. Neuronal depopulation occurs mainly in chagasic heart disease and myenteric plexus, and megacolon, megaesophagus and cardiomyopathy are common complications in the chronic stage of Chagas disease. Parasympathetic autonomic dysfunction precedes left ventricle systolic dysfunction in Chagas disease. A high prevalence of subclinical autonomic neuropathy in leprosy patients has been reported, and autonomic nerve dysfunction may be an early manifestation of the disease. Autonomic dysfunction features in leprosy include anhidrosis, impaired sweating function, localised alopecia ,and reduced heart rate variability. Urinary retention and intestinal pseudo-obstruction have been described in Lyme disease. Diphtheritic polyneuropathy, tetanus and botulism are examples of bacterial infections releasing toxins that affect the autonomic nervous system.

Conclusions: Autonomic dysfunction may be responsible for additional morbidity in some infectious diseases.

Keywords: Autonomic dysfunction; Chagas disease; Flavivirus; Infectious diseases; Retroviruses.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autonomic Nervous System Diseases / etiology*
  • Communicable Diseases / complications*
  • Humans