Autonomic dysreflexia definition

Autonomic dysreflexia is a very dangerous condition faced by individual suffering from quadriplegia . To remain safe from it one should have a very thorough understanding of its symptoms, causes and treatment. In below lines you will read in detail about all that.

It is a very dangerous and life threatening condition faced by individuals suffering from spinal cord injury. Quadriplegics mostly suffer from it .Paraplegics above t6 vertebrae level experience autonomic dysreflexia too . A sudden attack of it causes high rise in blood pressure and if not treated timely can result in stroke and even death.

Why autonomic dysreflexia occurs

Whenever there is painful stimulus in any part of the body below injury, feedback signals from that part tries to reach brain through spinal cord.  The injury site vacuum in spinal cord however blocks the flow of signals between the body and brain. As a result, a reflux is created causing spasms and narrowing of blood vessels. This results in the rise of blood pressure. This phenomenon is known as Autonomic dysreflexia.


autonomic dysreflexia

Symptoms of Autonomic dysreflexia.

  • Headache
  • Profuse perspiration above injury
  • High blood pressure
  • Redness of face because of blood flow
  • Decrease pulse rate
  • Feeling restlessness
  • Skin getting cold and clammy below injury
  • Congestion of nasal cavity and Chill with out fever.


Autonomic dysreflexia causes

It is caused by any stimulus resulting in pain after  spinal cord injury . Few most common causes are listed below:




  • The first big cause is related to bladder. A full bladder, a block catheter, bladder stone or bladder infection may result in Autonomic dysreflexia.
  • Bowel related problems is another big cause of Autonomic dysreflexia . This includes a bowel filled with stool, constipation, gase, infection or appendix problems etc.
  • A wounded or burned skin, broken bone, urinary tract infection, injury during sexual intercourse, labor pain in women during pregnancy may result in Autonomic Dysreflexia.

Autonomic dysreflexia treatment and prevention.

  • Whether you are in wheelchair or bed,  sit straight so that less blood flow towards brain.
  • In case filled bladder is filled or catheter is blocked, then empty the urine bag and open the blocked catheter through irrigation or replace it with a new one.
  • If the problem is because of full bowel or due to difficulty in excreting out stool due to constipation, sit on commode chair and pass stool. Try doing digital stimulation for passing the stool.
  • If the problem is because of skin, check for pressure sores, burn, cut or any other reason causing skin pain and discomfort.
  • Consult the doctor immediately If you are unable to identify the problem.

Read also: Bladder management following spinal cord injury