Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy or RSD is also known as complex regional pain syndrome and is a rare disorder affecting the person diagnosed with severe pain, usually chronic. Some medical professionals believe this to be a rare autoimmune disorder, and others think RSD to be a direct result of some type of injury amongst other causes.
What causes RSD?
The exact cause is unknown due to the rare occurrence of this disorder. However, theories suggest that the following reasons may be contributing factors:
- Some form of trauma to the body
- The result of some type of surgery
- Due to infection
- Due to nerve damage from burns
- Post radiation therapy
- Paralysis, or hemiplegia affecting one side of the body
- Post-myocardial infarction, commonly known as a heart attack
- Cervical osteoarthritis, a disorder of the spine in the neck area
- Cerebrovascular accidents, CVA, otherwise known as strokes
- Heart diseases
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome
- Breast Cancer
- Tuberculosis medications
More than 20% of cases, however, are unable to find the exact cause or contributing factor to the development of RSD.
What are the symptoms of RSD?
Symptoms vary from each individual, who may be affected by some or all of the symptoms. Symptoms are among the following, but not limited to:
- Burning pain usually in a hand, foot or leg
- Tenderness in some regions of the body
- Swelling of painful extremities
- Extreme sensitivity to cold temperatures or gentle touches
- Unregulated temperatures of the skin, profuse sweating or sudden onset of cold
- Skin color changes, usually purple spots are known as mottling or red, white
- Skin texture changes, generally thinning and an opalescent appearance occurs of the pained area
- Hair and nail growth changes
- Stiffness and swelling occurs in the joints
- Muscle atrophy, spasms
- Decreased range of motion in the affected body part
The usual first symptoms to appear are burning pain, swelling, sensitivity in the troubled area and temperature changes in an individual afflicted with this disorder. This is considered the early stage and optimal for treatment. Once the skin and nail appearances start to occur, the disorder has become irreversible, and managing symptoms is the only option.
What are the permanent effects of RSD?
The skin and bones, as well as associated muscles in a particular area will be affected if the body part is favored as a result of pain and stiffness. Deterioration will occur which will increase weakness, difficulty performing simple tasks and increased risk for further health problems. Contractures, also known as muscle tightening that results in the inability to bend or straighten an extremity, will occur due to deterioration and non-use of the extremity.
Can RSD be cured?
Currently, there is no known cure for RSD. Successful therapies using medications, physical therapy, and psychological counseling have been proven in helping those affected by RSD to cope and live a relatively healthy life. Keep in mind, this only occurs in some cases, and symptoms can persist despite treatment.