Familial Dysautonomia, abbreviated FD, is a rare, life-threatening, genetic, neurologic disease present at birth. To best describe this disorder, consider the clues in its name. Familial means the condition is inherited. Dysautonomia, pronounced dis-aw-tuh-noh-mee-uh, means a dysfunction of the autonomic nervous system. The autonomic nervous system controls automatic body functions, such as breathing, digestion and circulation. People with FD have an impaired autonomic nervous system, rendering each breath, swallow and heartbeat undependable and erratic. They are prone to wide swings in blood pressure and to life-threatening autonomic crisis. Those with FD live in unstable, unreliable bodies.
In addition to the detrimental effects of FD on the organs that involuntarily function such as lungs, stomach and heart, FD also impairs a part of the sensory nervous system that controls pain and temperature. Thus, broken bones, burns and frostbite often go undetected.