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Autonomic Dysreflexia


Autonomic dysreflexia (AD) is a condition that causes sudden, extremely high blood pressure. AD is most common in people with a spinal cord injury in the neck or upper back.



  • Medicines can help lower your blood pressure or soften your bowel movements. You may also need medicine to prevent an infection or decrease acid in your stomach.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him or her if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Manage your symptoms:

  • Sit up or lie with your head raised to decrease your blood pressure. Check your blood pressure every 5 minutes.
  • Loosen any tight clothes , belts, bandages, or braces.
  • Empty your bladder catheter and make sure the tubing is not kinked or blocked.
  • Try to have a bowel movement.
  • Check your skin for red areas. Change your position at least every 2 hours.

Help prevent AD:

Healthcare providers will teach you a bladder and bowel movement program. This program includes ways to help you urinate and have bowel movements regularly. This will help prevent urine buildup, constipation, and AD. Ask for more information on bladder and bowel training.

Carry a medical identification card:

The card should include a summary of your AD. The information will help healthcare providers if you have an emergency.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • Your blood pressure is higher than what your healthcare provider said it should be.
  • You have a fever.
  • You have a red area or sore on your skin.
  • You have blood in your bowel movement.
  • Your urine is cloudy, smells bad, or has blood in it.
  • You urinate less than usual.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • You have trouble breathing.
  • You have a severe headache.
  • You are too dizzy to stand or have trouble walking or moving.
  • You are not urinating at all.
  • You have severe abdominal pain and have not had a bowel movement in a while.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Learn more about Autonomic Dysreflexia (Discharge Care)

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.