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Warning signs

The following warning signs are indicators that there may be a serious problem. Autonomic dysreflexia occurs when you experience a sudden rise in your blood pressure of 20 mmHg or more above your normal blood pressure.

Please note: Your normal blood pressure may be quite low at other times, so the early rise in blood pressure may still be within the range considered normal for a person without a spinal cord injury.

The signs and symptoms of autonomic dysreflexia include any of the following:

icon of person with lightening bolt on head
Pounding headache
icon of nasal area
Stuffy nose
icon of person with drip over their head
Profuse sweating
icon of eye with cross through it and drop in centre
Blurred vision
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Blotchiness or rash over skin
icon of person laughing over toilet
Nausea or feeling unwell
icon of arm with goosebumps
Goosebumps and chills
icon of person blowing out a small amount of air
Shortness of breath
or feeling anxious

Management index

Autonomic dysreflexia can vary in its duration and/or frequency as described in the table below.

Autonomic dysreflexia resolves quickly
Autonomic dysreflexia does not resolve – this is an emergency
Autonomic dysreflexia
Cause identified, an episode of autonomic dysreflexia that resolves quickly (and does not recur)

An episode of autonomic dysreflexia that does not subside and/or blood pressure remains high

Recurrent autonomic dysreflexia

Frequent autonomic dysreflexia

There is no such thing as mild, moderate or severe autonomic dysreflexia. Every case of autonomic dysreflexia is an emergency.

If warning signs do not subside and/or blood pressure remains high, call 000 for an ambulance.