Diabetic Cardiovascular Autonomic Neuropathy Symptoms

Cardiovascular autonomic neuropathy

With high blood glucose levels, diabetes causes numerous complications. It damages both small and large blood vessels, and the nervous system. Most people are aware of the diabetes complication called diabetic neuropathy; however, they are only aware of its effects on the feet – Diabetic feet. This happens when the peripheral nerves are damaged in diabetes. When the autonomic nervous system is damaged in diabetes, it can lead to a condition called diabetic cardiovascular autonomic neuropathy.

What is diabetic cardiovascular autonomic neuropathy?

Diabetic cardiovascular autonomic neuropathy is a neglected condition that is caused due to diabetic neuropathy.  In many cases, this condition goes unnoticed even though it is one of the common, but serious diabetes complications.

Diabetic cardiovascular autonomic neuropathy is a complex condition that is caused due to the damage of autonomic nerves. Since autonomic nerves regulate the function of internal organs and the functioning of respiration, digestion, urination, pupillary response, and heart rate, diabetic neuropathy of autonomic nerves affects the heart and other internal organs.  

Diabetic cardiovascular autonomic neuropathy is caused when the autonomic nerves regulating the heart and its connected blood vessels are damaged due to chronic high blood sugar levels.

Diabetic cardiovascular autonomic neuropathy is a diabetic neuropathy that can seriously hamper the quality of life and survival of affected people. This condition is characterized by:

  • Abnormal heart rate
  • Reduced heart rate variability (variation time between each beat)
  • Arrhythmias
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Stroke
  • Coronary artery disease Silent heart attack
  • Sudden cardiac death  

Who is at risk of Diabetic cardiovascular autonomic neuropathy?

  • Age and duration of diabetes (generally above 10 years)
  • Women with type 1 diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Smoking
  • Poor blood glucose control
  • Increased HbA1c
  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol levels
  • High triglyceride levels
  • Microalbuminuria
  • People with multiple diabetic neuropathies
  • People with obstructive sleep apnea
  • People with diabetes complications like diabetic retinopathy

Though the above mentioned factors are increased risk factors for diabetic cardiovascular autonomic neuropathy, some people might have this condition even as early as prediabetes.

Symptoms of Diabetic cardiovascular autonomic neuropathy

  • Heart rate variability with deep breathing
  • Exercise intolerance leading to shortness of breath, and chest discomfort
  • Tachycardia (high heart rate) while resting
  • Drop in blood pressure while standing up
  • High blood pressure
  • Lack of awareness of low blood sugar levels
  • Heart palpitations
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Arrhythmia symptoms