Sudden high blood pressure with pounding headache (dysreflexia) 117
Examine your whole body
carefully every day. You can use
a mirror to look at your back. If
you notice a dark or red place, try
to avoid any pressure on this area
until your skin returns to normal.
Try to wash every day with mild soap and clean water. Pat your skin dry, but do
not rub it. To prevent dry skin, which can crack and tear more easily, gently apply a
little lotion once a day. Never use alcohol on your skin. Alcohol can dry out the
skin and make it weak.
Eat plenty of fruits, vegetables, and foods rich in protein and iron—such as
lentils, beans, peas (especially when they are sprouted), meat (especially liver,
heart, and kidney), fish, or chicken. This will make your skin and muscles healthy
and strong, which will help to prevent pressure sores.
Sudden high blood pressure
with pounding headache (dysreflexia)
People with a spinal cord injury above the T6 bone of the spine can get sudden
high blood pressure with pounding headaches (dysreflexia). It is the body’s
reaction to something that would normally cause pain or
discomfort, but which the person does not feel because
of the injury. Dysreflexia can be caused when something
touches or stimulates an internal organ such as the bowel,
genitals, bladder, or intestine, or the skin on the lower body
or the breasts.
Common causes of dysreflexia:
• a very full bladder. This can be caused by a catheter that
has become bent or twisted.
• a bladder infection, or stones in the bladder or kidneys
(see page 105)
• too much stool in the body (constipation, see page 108)
• pressure sores, burns, or irritated skin which you may not be able to feel
(for information about pressure sores, see page 114)
• hot or cold temperatures against your skin, such as from lying on a cold
• womb contractions during monthly bleeding or during childbirth.
• sexual activity
bones in the
spine. T6 is
A Health Handbook for Women with Disabilities 2007