118 chapter 5: Taking care of your body
Signs of dysreflexia:
1. sweating, especially from your
face, arms, or chest
2. reddish or dark blotchy skin
above the level of the spinal
3. goose bumps or pimples on
arms or chest
4. blurry vision or seeing spots
5. stuffy nose
6. severe, pounding headache
7. feeling sick (nausea)
8. sudden high blood pressure
(up to 240/150)
Any of these problems alone or in combination
can be a sign of dysreflexia. If you think you have
dysreflexia, you need help right away. Try to have a
family member or another caregiver practice how to
care for you if you have sudden high blood pressure.
You and they must act quickly to remove the cause
and lower the blood pressure. You can use this
information to let a helper or a health worker know
how they can also help if you have dysreflexia.
IMPORTANT Dysreflexia is a medical emergency. The high blood pressure can
cause seizures or deadly bleeding inside the brain. Caregivers must never leave a
person with dysreflexia alone.
Always pay attention to the signs of dysreflexia. Some signs do not
indicate an emergency, but are the way some women with a spinal cord
injury can know something is happening with their body. For example, if
you start to feel a little hot and sweaty, or if you have a tingling feeling in
your skin, it may be because your shoes or clothing are too tight, or you
are sitting on something hard, or your urine catheter is twisted or bent, or
your toenail is growing into your skin. Usually, if you can take care of the
problem, your dysreflexia signs will go away.
Treatment for dysreflexia:
• If you are lying down, sit up and stay sitting until the signs have gone away.
• Loosen any tight clothing, including tight socks or stockings.
• If it is caused by pressure or temperature, change your position to remove the
pressure or get away from the hot or cold surface.
• Remove anything that is rubbing against the skin.
• Feel the lower belly to see if the bladder is full.
A Health Handbook for Women with Disabilities 2007