For nearly 30 years, Madge Hand knew something was going on with her body, but never determined what was causing her head-spinning health issues.
She had been in and out of several hospitals, looking for answers and trying different treatments, but her physicians couldn’t pinpoint the right diagnosis.
Now with the help of Wellstar experts, Madge is managing her dysautonomia – a disorder of the autonomic nervous system, which controls involuntary body functions like heart rate – so she can get her health back on track.
A Dizzying Diagnosis
Madge, 79, started noticing symptoms when she was in her 50s. When she moved from lying down to sitting up or from sitting up to standing, her blood pressure would drop drastically — going as low as 60 over 30, compared to the normal level of about 120 over 80. Her doctors at the time were unable to determine the issue. She also experienced frequent nausea and was unable to eat.
She started rehab for general weakness. When she later broke her hip due to dizziness, she struggled to complete rehab because when she tried to walk, her blood pressure would drop and she would feel faint.
Madge has some answers and is now working with Wellstar’s autonomic program, one of only a few programs in the country certified to treat these disorders, to get back on track.
It turned out that Madge has dysautonomia — her autonomic nervous system isn’t working like it should, which affects her blood pressure and makes her feel faint. She is also managing her orthostatic hypotension, which causes her blood pressure to change suddenly when she stands. To prevent her blood pressure from suddenly dropping, she takes a steroid to keep it higher, along with midodrine, a medication used to treat orthostatic hypotension.
Only a few specialized programs are certified to treat autonomic disorders, but Madge can get the personalized care she needs close to home. Dr. Howard Snapper, a Wellstar cardiovascular disease specialist, is one of fewer than 50 physicians in North America board-certified to diagnose and treat these conditions. The autonomic center at Wellstar treats disorders of the autonomic nervous system, which controls involuntary body functions like heart rate, temperature, sweating and digestion.
Convenient, Expert Care
Madge’s first appointment with Dr. Snapper was virtual, keeping care convenient. As Wellstar has one of only two autonomic disorder programs in the Southeast, patients can travel long distances to see specialists. Virtual appointments remove barriers to care for autonomic disorders, and the program recently expanded care with two new advanced practice providers.
“Sometimes, the symptoms of autonomic disorders can be confused with signs of other conditions,” Dr. Snapper said. “However, Madge had many of the common symptoms, including sudden changes in blood pressure, nausea and fainting.”
Madge said she is grateful that the health issues she has been dealing with for almost 30 years are now being addressed.
“Since I started working with Dr. Snapper, I feel so much better,” Madge said. “Now I can complete my rehab, and I know how to keep my blood pressure under control.”