Autonomic Dysreflexia

Autonomic Dysreflexia

Keep an eye on your blood pressure

Know the symptoms and how to respond

Know your baseline blood pressure, triggers, and symptoms.

Autonomic Dysreflexia (AD) can occur for people with a spinal cord injury at or above T6. It can cause an involuntary reaction in the body as the nervous system becomes overstimulated.

The best way to prevent AD is to monitor bladder output, maintain a regular bowel program and to do regular skin checks to prevent pressure sores from occurring.

It is also a good idea to know what your ‘usual’ blood pressure rate is so that should you need to visit an emergency room you can let the treating doctor know.

Understanding AD

When triggered, AD requires quick and correct action or there may be serious consequence such as a stroke. Because many health professionals are not familiar with this condition, it is important for people who are at risk for AD, including the people close to them, to recognise the symptoms and know how to act.

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Know the symptoms

Symptoms will vary based on the individual, but some of the signs of AD to look out for are:

  • High blood pressure
  • Pounding headache
  • Flushed face
  • Sweating above the level of injury
  • Goose flesh below the level of injury
  • Nasal stuffiness
  • Nausea, and
  • A slow pulse (slower than 60 beats per minute).
  • What causes AD

    Autonomic dysreflexia is caused by an irritant below the level of injury, including:

  • Bladder: irritation of the bladder wall, urinary tract infection, blocked catheter or overfilled collection bag.
  • Bowel: distended or irritated bowel, constipation or impaction, hemorrhoids or anal infections.
  • Other causes include skin infection or irritation, cuts, bruises, abrasions or pressure sores (decubitus ulcers), ingrown toenails, burns (including sunburn and burns from hot water) and tight or restrictive clothing.
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