Autonomic neuropathy affects the autonomic nerves, which control the bladder, intestinal tract, and genitals, among other organs.
Paralysis of the bladder is a common symptom of this type of neuropathy. When this happens, the nerves of the bladder no longer respond normally to pressure as the bladder fills with urine. As a result, urine stays in the bladder, leading to urinary tract infections.
Autonomic neuropathy can also cause erectile dysfunction (ED) when it affects the nerves that control erection with sexual arousal. However, sexual desire does not usually decrease.
Diarrhea can occur when the nerves that control the small intestine are damaged. The diarrhea occurs most often at night. Constipation is another common result of damage to nerves in the intestines.
Sometimes, the stomach is affected. It loses the ability to move food through the digestive system, causing vomiting and bloating. This condition, called gastroparesis, can change how fast the body absorbs food. It can make it hard to match insulin doses to food portions.
Scientists do not know the precise cause of autonomic neuropathy and are looking for better treatments for this type of neuropathy.