RSD, Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, spans across all age groups but has been commonly found in those aged 40 to 60 years. Studies have also found RSD occurs more frequently in females than in males. The disorder has also shown to occur in young adults and children although rarely. RSD does not discriminate against age or gender.
Are there stages to RSD?
Yes, there are four stages that medical professionals have categorized concerning RSD. Keep in mind these are always subject to change as new studies and information arise. The current stages are as follows:
- Stage One – Acute: This stage typically lasts 1-3 months and pain, a burning sensation is prevalent in this stage. The pain severely limits movement ability and range of motion. Swelling, increased sensitivity, changes in bone structure, joint pain, hair and nail alterations, increasing pain and temperature changes in the skin can occur. Note, this is the stage that physicians have determined is best for probable reversal or remission.
- Stage Two – Dystrophic: This stage typically lasts 3-6 months after stage one has progressed. Movement and activity will exacerbate painful symptoms. Audible sounds will begin to affect the nervous system and incite pain in extremities affected. Mottled discoloration and other colors appear in the skin, nails are increasingly brittle, and muscles may begin to atrophy. This stage also affects short-term memory, speaking capabilities, decreased attention span, repetition, and affects mental health and mood changes.
- Stage Three – Atrophic: This stage typically lasts for an undetermined amount of time. The symptoms will either remain the same or can be exacerbated by a new injury or qualifying event.
- Stage Four: Very rarely do those afflicted with RSD reach this stage. However, at this stage, organs inside the body begin to be affected and treatments are no longer useful.
Does everyone with RSD follow these stages?
No, as these stages are merely guidelines that physicians specializing in RSD treatments and diagnosis have formulated based on gathered information and observations. No disorder or disease follows a precise set of rules. RSD is a disorder that continually evolves and symptoms do not always present themselves the same way. Diagnosis does not always occur when symptoms begin, as they are similar to a plethora of disorders existing in the world today.
What are the tests performed to help diagnose RSD?
RSD is either diagnosed through a physical exam by a physician knowledgeable in RSD, or by the following tests:
- Bone Scan to detect any minute changes in bone density and shape.
- Sympathetic nervous system tests for changes in skin temperature and circulation of blood to affected extremities. Some tests can measure different amounts of sweat in different areas of the body indicating RSD.
- X-rays can show loss of organic bone material, especially in advanced stages of the disorder.
- MRI, or magnetic resonance imaging, can show tissue alterations not visible in x-rays or bone scans.
While there are numerous diagnostic tools available, these are the most commonly used tests.