Everyone knows that October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month, and seeing entire communities sporting the iconic baby pink ribbons and gear is certainly heart-warming. But there’s another color for October that’s a little less known.
Turquoise is the nationally recognized color of dysautonomia, an umbrella term that covers several medical conditions related to the malfunctioning of the automatic nervous system. This system oversees the “background” functions of the body: heart rate, blood pressure, digestion, dilation and constriction of pupils, kidney function and temperature control. Those affected by dysautonomia are unable to properly regulate these functions, and can suffer a range of symptoms.
While the condition itself is not rare, there is a severe lack of awareness in the public and medical communities. Because of this, the average diagnosis time for most patients is six years. Dysautonomia can come in many forms, including PoTS, NCS and MSA.
PoTS stands for Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome. Between 1 and 3 million Americans are affected, and it is most often found in young women who appear to be healthy otherwise. This makes PoTS extremely difficult to diagnose, and it is often misdiagnosed as anxiety. The disease can cause lightheadedness and exhaustion in patients upon standing up, but can also be the culprit behind mental health issues, nausea, heart palpitations, migraines and many other symptoms.
NCS, or Neurocardiogenic Syncope, is the most common form of dysautonomia, and mild forms can impact any individual once or twice in their lives. NCS takes the shape of frequent fainting attacks and while one episode may not seem daunting, patients with NCS may find themselves fainting multiple times a day. This can lead to dangerous falls, broken bones and head injury.
Multiple System Atrophy (MSA) is the most fatal form of dysautonomia. It is most often found in adults over the age of 40, and can often imitate Parkinson’s disease. While debilitating and life-threatening, this disease is extremely rare, with 350,000 diagnoses worldwide.
There is no cure yet for dysautonomia, but the condition can be treated to improve quality of life. Raising awareness of this disease not only brings the medical world closer to a cure, but makes it easier for patients to be diagnosed more efficiently and treated early on. For more information on dysautonomia, or other diseases of the automatic nervous system, visit the Rare Diseases Clinical Research Network website.