Updates on the Diagnosis and Treatment of Peripheral Autonomic Neuropathies

Curr Neurol Neurosci Rep. 2022 Dec;22(12):823-837. doi: 10.1007/s11910-022-01240-4. Epub 2022 Nov 15.

Abstract

Purpose of review: Autonomic neuropathies are a complex group of disorders and result in diverse clinical manifestations that affect the cardiovascular, gastrointestinal, urogenital, and sudomotor systems. We focus this review on the diagnosis and treatment of peripheral autonomic neuropathies. We summarize the diagnostic tools and current treatment options that will help the clinician care for individuals with peripheral autonomic neuropathies.

Recent findings: Autonomic neuropathies occur often in conjunction with somatic neuropathies but they can also occur in isolation. The autonomic reflex screen is a validated tool to assess sympathetic postganglionic sudomotor, cardiovascular sympathetic noradrenergic, and cardiac parasympathetic (i.e., cardiovagal) function. Initial laboratory evaluation for autonomic neuropathies includes fasting glucose or oral glucose tolerance test, thyroid function tests, kidney function tests, vitamin-B12, serum, and urine protein electrophoresis with immunofixation. Other laboratory tests should be guided by the clinical context. Reduced intraepidermal nerve density on skin biopsy is a finding, not a diagnosis. Skin biopsy can be helpful in selected individuals for the diagnosis of disorders affecting small nerve fibers; however, we strongly discourage the use of skin biopsy without clinical-physiological correlation. Ambulatory blood pressure monitoring may lead to early identification of patients with cardiovascular autonomic neuropathy in the primary care setting. Disease-modifying therapies should be used when available in combination with nonpharmacological management and symptomatic pharmacologic therapies. Autonomic function testing can guide the therapeutic decisions and document improvement with treatment. A systematic approach guided by the autonomic history and standardized autonomic function testing may help clinicians when identifying and/or counseling patients with autonomic neuropathies. Treatment should be individualized and disease-modifying therapies should be used when available.

Keywords: Amyloidosis; Autonomic neuropathies; Autonomic reflex screen; COVID-19; Skin biopsy.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Autonomic Nervous System
  • Autonomic Nervous System Diseases* / diagnosis
  • Autonomic Nervous System Diseases* / therapy
  • Blood Pressure Monitoring, Ambulatory
  • Diabetic Neuropathies* / diagnosis
  • Humans
  • Norepinephrine
  • Peripheral Nervous System Diseases* / diagnosis

Substances

  • Norepinephrine