The vagus nerve is actually two nerves, both of which run from the brain stem and branch out separately, down the body, across the abdomen and to the main organs such as the heart and stomach. Disorders of the vagus nerve are often also called 10th cranial nerve disorders and they can have a variety of different effects upon the human body.

The vagus nerve is directly responsible for a number of bodily functions, such as breathing, maintaining digestive function, keeping the brain up to date with what we have eaten and/or digested and monitoring the heart beat to keep it regular. Any disorders of the vagus nerve can affect these functions, but some effects are more common than others. For example, if there is pressure upon the vagus nerve, or it is stimulated for any reason then the result is usually unconsciousness, clammy, cool skin and nausea. This is because when stimulated, the vagus nerve causes the heart to slow down and blood pressure levels to drop considerably. While this might appear to be a negative, the vagus nerve is sometimes stimulated to treat people with severe depression or epilepsy conditions.

Vagus nerve disorders are tested for using the same measures as disorders of the 9th cranial nerve are too. Both these nerves affect swallowing, language and the gag reflex. A medical professional will usually touch the back of the tongue to see if the gag reflex is present as well as observe the uvula and the back of the throat when the person talks. If there is anything unusual with these processes then this poses further evidence for a 9th or 10th cranial (vagus) nerve disorder.

Those suffering from congenital (present from birth) vagus nerve disorders may require breathing apparatus, pacemakers to help with maintaining a regular heart beat and gastronomy feeding tube insertion, so that they can bypass having to swallow. They may also need to follow very rigid feeding time schedules because the vagus nerve is unable to relay to the brain whether digestion has finished and the person is hungry again. As you can see, vagus nerve disorders can be particularly devastating and patients often require a lot of specialist care.

There are some vagus nerve disorders that come about during mid to later life, or are brought on by trauma to the 10th cranial nerve. In this case the individual may need to readjust to life with a pacemaker or whatever other equipment is required. Of course, if the disorder is caused by temporary pressure on a part of the vagus nerve then a full recovery is possible. Anyone experiencing regular fainting spells, a difficulty eating, swallowing or talking and low blood pressure should see a specialist for a definitive diagnosis. Once this has been sought the patient will work with a specialist to get the treatment that they need and maintain a good quality of life.


  1. Your article was very precise, to the point and at the same time very thorough.

    Thank you, very much.


  2. My anatomy class said the vagus nerve doesn't have a role in respiration. That comes from the brain stem. But overall a good article, informative, easy to read, and hopeful.

  3. Good simple short sinopsis of vagus nerve dissordes!

  4. This article is very good for it will give a way how to go forward to looking how to cure the heart without use of pacemakers.

  5. I was concerned if it possible that an increase in heart rate could be caused by wearing a metal splint to correct TMJ for a long period of time. When the splint broke for a period of time the vagus nerve seemed to heal and when the splint was repaired the pain came back. I had related that to the metal on metal crowns.

  6. I have had a pacemaker for 10 years. I have been having the attacks, [vagus nerve malfunction], for many years and no one has ever been able to diagnose it until just recently. It has become so much worse and more frequent attacks in the past year. They are going to do an upper and lower GI in May. What can I do to prevent these attacks from happening until I get the results back. I have been diagnosed with the problem using the tilt-chair method. Will The GI give them a better look at the situation and be able to treat it accordantly? The kidneys are somewhat elevated. Is that also caused by the vagus nerve?

    Thanking you in advance, Naomi

  7. Had total esophagectomy and pull-up two years ago. Article helps explain some of my problems eating. Vagus nerve was severed. No hunger, problems holding onto what I eat. Pylorus is slow to open, some dumping. Some food hangs up where stomach now goes thru diaphragm. Adjusting to it all. Lucky with stage III adenocarcinoma of lower esophagus. Very good radiation therapy made the difference, them good chemo, then surgery.

  8. Very good info!

  9. would like to have more info with better details

  10. Would be helpful to know what kinds of things can cause this to occur if it is not congenital.

  11. This was a helpful condensation of a complex topic. I would have also liked to have known if there are specific neurological diseases or syndromes which cause chronic vagus nerve symptoms.

  12. Do you mind if I quote a few of your posts as long as I provide credit and sources back to your website? My blog site is in the very same niche as yours and my users would definitely benefit from some of the information you provide here. Please let me know if this alright with you. Thanks a lot!

  13. I would love to see more information. Who diagnoses and treats this disorder. No one wants to take it on.

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