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Advanced Medical Group
450 Old Peachtree Road, N.W.
Suite 102
Suwanee, GA 30024-7289

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Advanced Care Program: Paralysis

Recognizing and Preventing Autonomic Dysreflexia

Autonomic dysreflexia is an emergency situation that affects individuals that have a T-5 or higher spinal cord injury or paralysis. It is important to recognize this complication, know what causes it, and how to treat it before it becomes life threatening.

One or more of the following symptoms may indicate the onset of autonomic dysreflexia:
  • Blurred vision or seeing spots in front of eyes
  • Cold, clammy skin below the level of spinal injury
  • Goose bumps below the level of spinal injury
  • Hypertension (blood pressure greater than 200/100)
  • Nasal stuffiness
  • Nausea
  • Red blotches on skin above the level of spinal injury
  • Severe pounding headache
  • Slow pulse (below 60 beats per minute)
  • Sweating above the level of spinal injury
Typical causes of autonomic dysreflexia include:
  • Bladder infection or full bladder as a result of a blocked catheter or infrequent catheterization
  • Certain medications, i.e. digoxin
  • Cold and hot temperatures
  • Severe constipation
  • Severe menstrual cramps or child birth
  • Skin irritation or pressure sores
  • Stomach ulcers
  • Tight clothes
  • Traumatic pain
Preventive steps include:
  • Adhering to your physician's plan of care and medication regime
  • Avoiding constipation by adhering to a bowel program that achieves a routine bowel movement
  • Avoiding sun burn, scalds, and extreme cold weather
  • Avoiding urinary tract infections
  • Eating a well-balanced diet and maintaining adequate fluid intake
  • Emptying bladder at scheduled intervals
  • Frequently shifting weight to relieve pressure while in bed or chair
What to do:
  • Assume a sitting position
  • Drain your bladder
  • Perform your bowel program to remove stool from the rectum
  • If the above first aid measures do not resolve problem, seek immediate medical attention.

Paralysis Topics

Recognizing and Preventing Autonomic Dysreflexia
Recognizing and Preventing Pressure Sores
Recognizing and Preventing Urinary Tract Infections
Skin Care
Osteoporosis and Fractures
Bowel Management
Respiratory Complications
Smoking and Paralysis
Male Sexuality
The Importance of Range of Motion Exercises
Female Sexuality
Nutrition & Spinal Cord Injury
Wheelchair Cushion Maintenance
Latex Allergies

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