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Lucy Jane Miller, Ph.D., OTR
Lucy Jane Miller, PhD, OTR

Lucy Jane Miller, PhD, OTR
Founder and Executive Director

Q. Erin was recently diagnosed with dysautonomia. Along with her Prader-Willi Syndrome issues, this adds a new level of things to be concerned about. My thoughts keep wandering to the connection between dys-autonomia and sensory challenges. It seems that if you are dizzy, unsure of your footing, have fluctuating blood pressure/temperature, among many other things, that would be enough to make anyone process sensory input differently. In your work, have you dealt with individuals with dysautonomia and, if so, how have they responded to treatment?

A. It seems that all our kids with SPD have atypical autonomic nervous systems. I see from a quick Google search that dysautonomia includes the following symptoms:

Excessive fatigue
Excessive thirst
Lightheadedness, dizziness or vertigo
Feelings of anxiety or panic
Rapid or too slow a heart rate
Orthostatic hypotension, sometimes resulting in fainting
Other symptoms frequently associated with dysautonomia include: headaches, pallor, complaints of general malaise, flushing, salt cravings, abnormal dilation of the pupils, constipation, diarrhea, nausea, acid reflux, visual disturbances, orthostatic hypotension, numbness, nerve pain, trouble breathing, chest pains, in some cases loss of consciousness and seizures. 

Many of these symptoms overlap with SPD. 

I also read two other interesting facts:
Other vitamin deficiencies [like B-1] have been implicated in causing dysautonomia and, unlike the genetically determined forms of the disease, they are treatable. 

It is a complex question that you asked. As with all the other similar questions we get related to comorbid (other co-existing) diagnosis, likely the explanation is that SPD can exist with dysautonomia, dysautonomia can exist without SPD and they can also co-exist.  Again, as you have heard from me over and over, it is essential to start with an excellent multi-disciplinary evaluation, so that the treatment that is designed for you is based on a solid foundation highlighting what the problems are. No two children are alike!

We look forward to receiving YOUR questions. Please send Ask Dr. Lucy questions you would like to see answered to: info@spdfoundation.net. Be sure to enter Ask Dr. Lucy in the subject line.

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