Autonomic dysreflexia is a syndrome in which there is a
sudden onset of excessively high
blood pressure. If not treated promptly and correctly,
it may lead to
stroke, and even death. Autonomic dysreflexia is more
common in people with
spinal cord injuries that involve the
thoracic nerves of the spine or above (T6 or above).
If you have high blood pressure (or hypertension) and are having problems with erectile dysfunction (ED), the first step toward a solution is to see your doctor. You may be a bit hesitant to discuss your sex life with a doctor, but rest assured your doctor has heard it all before and will know how to help you.
Erectile dysfunction is fairly common. One study in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society found that nearly half of men over 40 with high blood pressure have ED.
Your doctor will...
Cold, clammy skin below the level of spinal
If you feel you have autonomic dysreflexia:
Sit up straight, or raise your head so you are
looking straight ahead. If you can lower your legs, do so. You need to be
sitting upright until your blood pressure is back to normal.
or take off any tight clothing or accessories. This includes braces,
catheter tape, socks or stockings, shoes, and
Empty your bladder by draining your Foley catheter or using your
Use digital stimulation to empty your bowel.
skin for red spots that mean you might have a pressure sore.
If possible, take your blood pressure every 5 minutes to see if it
Call your doctor, even if symptoms go away and your blood
pressure is decreasing.
If the symptoms return, repeat the above
steps and go to the emergency room or call emergency services.
Autonomic dysreflexia occurs when something happens to your
body below the level of your injury. This can be a pain or irritant (such as
tight clothing or something pinching your skin) or a normal function that your
body may not notice (such as having a full bladder and needing to urinate).
These situations trigger an automatic reaction that causes your blood pressure
to go up. As your blood pressure goes up, your heartbeat slows and may become
irregular. Your body cannot restore your blood pressure to normal because of
your spinal cord damage. The only way to return things to normal is to change
the situation-for example, by removing tight clothing or emptying your
The following are some frequent causes of autonomic
dysreflexia and how you can prevent them.