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Autonomic Dysreflexia - What Is It? Symptoms, Treatment, And Prevention


Anyone with a spinal cord injury above the T6 level is at risk for developing autonomic dysreflexia (AD). It's connected to broken connections between the injured area and the body parts that regulate blood pressure and heart function. It raises blood pressure to unsafe heights. Many different factors may trigger autonomic dysreflexia. For full bladders, bladder infections, severe constipation, and pressure sores are the most prevalent reasons.

The constriction of blood vessels below the site of damage causes a rise in blood pressure, which in turn causes symptoms like a pounding headache, spots in the eyes, or impaired vision. Autonomic dysreflexia is associated with an increased risk of stroke. The disorder has the potential to be fatal.

First and foremost, patients should prioritize their own health. Patients should keep an eye on their urination and try to stick to a normal bowel routine. Similarly, they should inspect their skin often to detect any signs of pressure sores.

Autonomic Dysreflexia


COPYRIGHT_SPINE: Published on https://spinal-injury.net/autonomic-dysreflexia/ by Dr. Bill Butcher on 2022-10-17T02:37:43.493Z

  • Banging head pain (caused by the elevation in blood pressure)
  • Fever Bumps
  • Excessive perspiration that might cause harm
  • Congestion of the Nasal Passages
  • Sluggish Heartbeat
  • Acne-like Skin Discoloration
  • Restlessness
  • Increased blood pressure (above 200 over 100) is medically referred to as hypertension.
  • Reddening of the cheeks or face
  • Skin discoloration above the level of a spinal injury
  • Perspiring excessively to the point of spinal damage
  • Nausea
  • Slow heart rate (less than 60 bpm).
  • Injury to the spinal cord causes cold, wet skin below the injury.


Overfilling the bladder is one of several potential causes of autonomic dysreflexia. Medical issues such as pregnancy, ingrown toenails, appendicitis, and infected skin irritations are other potential reasons. When the spinal cord is damaged, the body may respond to noxious stimuli (irritants, items that would normally cause pain) that reach places below the lesion.


Continue seated, but do a pressure release right away. The following should be checked if you use a Foley or suprapubic catheter. Is there a backup in your toilets or showers? Is the hose kinked somewhere? When you empty your bladder, does it empty into a drainage bag?

Is there a clog in the catheter? Your catheter should be replaced as soon as possible when a condition has been resolved that requires it. Autonomic dysreflexia is often caused by a full bladder. However, it might also be caused by the Bowel. Get rid of your bowel movements with some digital stimulation.

People Aslo Ask

Why Is Autonomic Dysreflexia Only Above T6?

The vast splanchnic blood arteries are fed by sympathetic fibers contained inside T6 to T10 nerve roots, making patients with lesions above T6 particularly vulnerable to autonomic dysreflexia.

What Happens During An Episode Of Autonomic Dysreflexia?

Autonomic dysreflexia is a life-threatening condition that may develop after an injury to the cervical spine. It causes life-threateningly high blood pressure and, when combined with very slow heart rates, may cause a stroke, seizure, or even cardiac arrest.

What Triggers Autonomic Dysreflexia?

Triggers for autonomic dysreflexia include bladder distension (the most frequent), bladder or kidney stones, a kink in a urinary catheter, infection of the urinary system, fecal impaction, pressure sores, an ingrown toenail, fractures, menstruation, and hemorrhoids.

Final Words

If you have autonomic dysreflexia and cannot locate the stimulus that is triggering it, or if your efforts to receive the stimulus fail, you should seek immediate medical attention. You should always have a card on you detailing autonomic dysreflexia (hyperreflexia) and the therapy it requires since not all doctors are aware of the problem.

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About The Authors

Dr. Bill Butcher

Dr. Bill Butcher - With more than two decades of experience, Dr. Bill Butcher aims to provide a repository for educational materials, sources of information, details of forthcoming events, and original articles related to the medical field and about health subjects that matter to you. His goal is to help make your life better, to help you find your way when faced with healthcare decisions, and to help you feel better about your health and that of your family. Bill received his medical degree at Boston University School of Medicine and spent his entire career helping people find the health and medical information, support, and services they need. His mission is to help millions of people feel fantastic by restoring them to optimal health.

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