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Reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome (RSDS) is also known as complex regional pain syndrome. It is a form of chronic pain that affects an arm or a leg.

Written by Doctify Team 27/04/2020

What is Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome?

Reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome (RSDS) is also known as complex regional pain syndrome. It is a form of chronic pain that affects an arm or a leg. It occurs after an injury, stroke, heart attack or surgery, however is very uncommon.

What are the causes for Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome?

Reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome occurs after an injury or illness that didn’t directly affect the nerves in the affected limb. The majority of cases occur after sever trauma to the arm and leg, such as a fracture or amputation. Emotional stress has also been shown to increase the severity of RSD. It is poorly understood why the pain occurs. It has been suggested that it is because of a dysfunctional interaction between your peripheral and central nervous system.

What are the symptoms of Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome?

Symptoms tend to include:

  • A throbbing or burning pain in the arm, leg, foot or hand.
  • The affected area is sensitive to touch.
  • The skin over the area affected may have changes in temperature.
  • The skin colour may change from white to red or blue.
  • The skin may become tender, shiny or thin.
  • The hair and nail growth may change.
  • The joints in the affected area may become stiff or start to swell.
  • The muscle may start to spasm or become weak in the affected area.
  • You may find it hard to move the affected area.

Symptoms vary from person to person. Some of these changes may become permanent in some individuals and some may be pain free after a few months. Sometimes the pain may spread from elsewhere in your body such as the opposite limb.

How is Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome treated?

There are various methods of treating RSD, these include: pain killers, antidepressants and anticonvulsants, corticosteroids, bone loss medication, nerve- blocking medication, physical therapy, applying heat and cold and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation.

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