- Pounding headache (caused by the rise in blood pressure)
- Sweating above the level of spinal cord injury
- Nasal congestion
- Blurry vision
- Slow pulse
- Blotchy skin above the level of spinal cord injury
- Feeling restless
- Flushed (reddened) face
- Chest tightness
- Goose bumps below the level of spinal cord injury
- Cold, clammy skin below the level of spinal cord injury
- Sit upright to lower your blood pressure.
- Elevate your head and lower your legs if possible.
- Take frequent blood pressure checks until the episode is over.
- Loosen or remove any clothes, shoes, leg braces, external catheter tape, or straps.
- Check your bladder. An overfull bladder is one of the most common causes of AD.
- If you think your bowels may be a cause, do a bowel program if you can. You should use lidocaine gel for to numb the area for digital stimulation. If AD is happening during a bowel program, stop the procedure. You can start again after your symptoms go away.
- Look for another problem that may be causing AD. If you cannot find a cause or if symptoms are continuing or getting worse, call for medical help right away.
- Make sure the tubing is free of kinks.
- Empty the drainage bags regularly.
- Make sure the drainage bag is at a level lower than your bladder.
- Check the catheter daily for signs of wear or problems with any piece of the catheter.
- Empty your bowels regularly.
- Avoid tight or restrictive clothing.
- Check your skin regularly for signs of wounds or pressure sores.
- Avoid things that could burn or damage your skin (eg, sun exposure, extremely hot water).
- Follow up with your medical team regularly to monitor your condition.
National Institutes of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases http://www.niams.nih.gov/default.asp/
Paralyzed Veterans of America http://www.pva.org/
Canadian Orthopaedic Association http://www.coa-aco.org/
Canadian Paraplegic Association http://www.canparaplegic.org/en/
Autonomic dysreflexia. The National Spinal Cord Injury Association website. Available at: http://www.spinalcord.org/resource-center/askus/index.php?pg=kb.page&id=248 . Accessed January 18, 2012.
Autonomic dysreflexia. PDF download. Paralyzed Veterans of America website. Available at: http://www.pva.org/site/apps/ka/ec/product.asp?c=ajIRK9NJLcJ2E&b=6423003&en=gvLQK3NSIeJUL9NLIlL0LgM0JkLUL8OUIlI5JoNaF&ProductID=883879 . Accessed January 19, 2012.
Other complications of spinal cord injury: autonomic dysreflexia (hyperreflexia). University of Miamai/Jackson Memorial Medical Center, Louis Calder Memorial Library website. Available at: http://calder.med.miami.edu/pointis/automatic.html . Accessed January 18, 2012.
Spinal cord injury – chronic management. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed . Updated November 1, 2011. Accessed January 20, 2012.
- Reviewer: Cynthia B. Brown, MD
- Review Date: 01/2012 -