Autonomic dysreflexia (AD) is a dangerous rise in blood pressure in people with spinal cord injuries.

AD can be serious. If it is not treated right away, it can lead to seizures, stroke, and death. Treatment is aimed at finding and eliminating the problem that started the reaction.

Pain can cause an increase in blood pressure. In people with spinal lesions, pain may not be felt but can stimulate a physical reaction. In particular, local blood vessels shrink in response to the pain which increases blood pressure. Normally, the brain will receive messages about the increase in blood pressure and take steps to lower the blood pressure back to normal. With AD, the message cannot reach the brain because of the spinal injury. As a result, the blood pressure continues to rise to dangerous levels.

AD can be caused by anything that would have been painful or physically uncomfortable before your spinal cord injury. The pain stimulation most often associated with AD is an overfull bladder. A blockage in your catheter, an infection, bladder spasms, or stones can all create pain stimulation.

Other factors that may cause pain stimulation include: