Pure autonomic failure

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Pure autonomic failure is a degenerative disorder of the peripheral autonomic nervous system. Patients experience symptomatic hypotension that requires them to sit, squat or lie down to prevent syncope. It is associated with characteristic histopathological findings, resulting in neuronal cytoplasmic inclusions in the peripheral autonomic nerves. These lesions are responsible for defects in the synthesis and release of norepinephrine from sympathetic nerve terminals, resulting in significant hypotension. Patients with autonomic failure also have exaggerated blood pressure responses to common stimuli such as food or fluid intake, heat, exercise and medications. Tilt table (head-up) testing is probably the test most commonly used to establish the diagnosis. However, simple office testing is also useful, such as having the patient stand after lying supine with blood pressure monitoring. Treatment options range from simply increasing fluid and salt intake, and using compressive garments, to medications administered orally, subcutaneously or intravenously in more severe cases.

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