Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD)

Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, commonly known as RSD, has also been previously known as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), but for the sake of ease in this blog, we’ll just refer to it as RSD. This is a neurological syndrome, meaning that it is a disorder of the nervous system. It causes chronic pain, as well as a variety of other symptoms.

What Causes Reflex Sympathetic Disorder?

RSD is a very serious, rapidly spreading disorder that must be treated aggressively and properly. Unfortunately, the causes of the condition are unknown, but most often, those who have RSD often have suffered trauma to their extremities, like sprains, fractures, surgery, and even some brain injuries.

Some injuries that RSD has been known to follow include:

  • Abrasions
  • Lacerations
  • Intramuscular injection (injections into the muscle) or medication/drugs
  • Blunt trauma
  • Neck/shoulder/chest injuries and trauma
  • Gunshot wounds
  • Crush injuries

As there is not really a known cause of RSD (just health issues that are known to precede it), there is no single test to decide whether or not a patient has RSD. Sometimes tests like x-rays, MRIs, or nerve tests can be useful for diagnosis. Most of the time, healthcare providers will make the diagnosis when a variety of conditions are met, including the lack of a more specific diagnosis. Additionally, because there is no defined cause, there is no defined cure.

You might find yourself asking: if RSD has no defined cause and is difficult to diagnose, how can I know if I have it? The key symptom is a pain that is intense and chronic and gets worse over time. It most often affects the extremities (hands, arms, legs, and feet). Below is a list of symptoms that often accompany RSD:

  • Severe burning pain, as if you’re on fire
  • Extreme sensitivity to touch
  • Swelling of tissue
  • Changes in skin temperature, color, and even texture
  • Disability of motor skills
  • Excessive sweating
  • Pathological changes in bone

RSD Specialist

If you have sustained an injury, or even if you haven’t, and have any combination of the symptoms above, give us a call and ask about the possibility of having RSD. The earlier RSD is diagnosed and treatment can be started, the better. Contact the Pain Relief Center today for more information.

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