Autonomic Dysreflexia

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
  • Pounding headache
  • Nasal congestion
  • Flushed face
  • Red blotching on the neck and chest
  • Profuse sweating above the level of injury
  • Goose bumps
  • Cool, clammy skin
  • Nausea
  • 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.

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