Autonomic dysreflexia (AD), also called hyperreflexia, can occur in persons who have suffered a spinal cord injury at or above the fifth thoracic vertebra (T5). AD means an over-activity of the Autonomic Nervous System. AD occurs when there is an irritation, pain, or stimulus to the nervous system below the level of injury. The irritated area sends a signal to the brain, but because of the injury to the spinal cord, the signal is not able to reach the brain. A reflex action takes place, tightening blood vessels, causing the blood pressure to rise to dangerously high levels. If the blood pressure is not controlled, it may cause a stroke, seizure, or even death.
Common Signs or Symptoms of Autonomic Dysreflexia
High blood pressure
Seeing spots or blurred vision
Red blotching on the neck and chest
Profuse sweating above the level of injury
Cool, clammy skin
Anxiety or a feeling of doom
AD is a serious condition that requires immediate medical attention. Spinal Cord Injury patients, caregivers, and medical professionals must be knowledgeable about AD and its management.