Autonomic Dysreflexia

The most common circulatory problem related to spinal cord injury appears in those people injured about the T-6 level. These individuals are prone to rapid increases in blood pressure, a syndrome called Autonomic Dysreflexia. Autonomic Dysreflexia is usually caused by a bowel or bladder that is too full for an extended period of time. Symptoms include:

  • A fast, major increase in blood pressure - 20-40 mm Hg systolic higher than usual
  • A pounding headache
  • Heavy sweating
  • Goose bumps
  • Flushed or reddened skin
  • Blurry vision or seeing spots
  • A stuffy nose
  • Anxiety or jitters
  • Tightness in your chest, flutters in your heart or chest, or trouble breathing

If any of these signs appear, follow the steps below:

  • Remain sitting or stay upright until blood pressure stabilizes
  • Ensure urinary drainage by catheterization
  • If bowel is distended, disimpact after inserting anesthetic jelly or ointment per rectum
  • Assess for any other possible sources of noxious stimuli or irritant
  • Hypertension should be treated medically if it persists
  • For further assistance or in case of medical emergency call 911 immediately

Automatic Dysreflexia Card

Automatic  Dysreflexia Card (Spanish)