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Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD): Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment


Imagine feeling sharp pain while doing everyday activities like showering or getting dressed. As daunting as the thought may be, it could be a symptom of a condition known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome (RSD).

Let’s understand the state more in this blog.

What is Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome (RSD)?

Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome (RSD) is a condition that causes chronic pain, usually in the arms or legs, after injury, stroke, or even injury. heart attack. However, pain is usually more serious than the injury itself. In most cases, the condition is treatable, but doctors aren’t sure of the exact cause.

The term reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome is actually no longer a name used by doctors. This is an old term used to describe his one form of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). RSD, also called type I CRPS, is caused by tissue damage without associated nerve damage.

Why does RSD occur?

Doctors say a problem with the sympathetic nervous system is the cause of RSD pain. The sympathetic nervous system controls bodily functions such as heart rate, blood flow, and blood flow. blood pressure. It also directs blood vessels to constrict to prevent blood loss at the site of injury. Over time, the sympathetic nervous system directs blood vessels to reopen and restore blood flow to the injured site.

However, the sympathetic nervous system receives conflicting messages when suffering from RSD. RSD includes amputations, bruises, burns, cuts, sprains, fractures, surgery, radiotherapy. Although rare, he can develop RSD without injury. After injury, blood vessels constrict but do not reopen, and the injured area is very painful and swollen.

RSD occurs slightly more often in women than in men. Children can get it too. However, in adults, it often develops between the ages of 30 and 60.

What are the symptoms of RSD?

If you have RSD, it may take some time for symptoms to appear. The pain can get worse over time. At first, you may not realize that your discomfort is abnormal. However, RSD most often appears on the arms, shoulders, legs, and hips. Pain usually radiates from the site of injury. In some situations, symptoms may spread to other areas of the body.

RSD can also affect the immune system, causing redness, inflammation and warmth of the skin near the injury. If you have RSD, the pain is usually intense and persistent. Patients describe RSD pain as burning, aching, deep, throbbing. With RSD, even seemingly innocuous activities, such as showering or getting dressed, can cause severe pain.

Other RSD signs and symptoms are:

  • Changes in skin texture and hair and nail growth
  • Excessive sweating in certain parts of the body
  • Weak muscles and frequent spasms
  • stiff joints
  • Difficulty moving the affected area
  • change in skin color.May change to white, red, blue

What is the diagnostic method for RSD?

It often takes time for your doctor to realize that RSD is the cause of your pain. The first sign that you may have RSD is if the pain doesn’t go away or is worse than you’d expect for that type of injury.

There is no test that can definitively tell if you have RSD. However, information about your physical examination and medical history may help your healthcare provider make the correct diagnosis. Some tests also reveal information about whether certain symptoms of the disorder are present. These consist of:

  1. Bone scan: Using this test, doctors can tell if the ends of bones are worn away or if normal blood flow is impaired.
  2. Thermography test: By examining the sympathetic nervous system, doctors can determine whether the temperature and blood flow in the injured area are different from those in other parts of the body.
  3. MRI: Your doctor may prescribe an MRI to look for obvious changes in your body’s tissues.
  4. sweat test. Doctors can use this test to determine if one side of the body sweats more than the other.

What are the treatment options for RSD?

There is no known cure for RSD, but treatment can relieve many symptoms. Treatment of RSD depends on whether the condition was diagnosed early. The earlier the diagnosis is made, the better the treatment will be. RSD treatment is ineffective in certain patients.

Drugs that your health care provider may suggest include:

  • lidocaine-based anesthetic cream
  • antidepressants, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
  • Antiseizure drugs that relieve pain
  • Nasal drops to treat bone thinning
  • nerve block injection
  • Pain relievers include aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen.

The following treatment options are unused or infrequently used due to potential side effects or lack of evidence proving efficacy.

  • corticosteroids such as methylprednisolone or prednisolone to treat swelling
  • Opioids such as fentanyl, hydrocodone, morphine, and oxycodone.

Other symptom management strategies include:

  • Electrodes are inserted into the spinal cord and short electrical shocks are given to relieve pain.
  • Physical therapy improves movement and pain management
  • psychotherapy teaches you to relax
  • splints for hand pain relief

If treatment doesn’t seem to improve your discomfort, your doctor may recommend a procedure known as a sympathectomy. Surgeons do this operation to increase blood flow by removing part of the nerve around the blood vessel.


Early detection and treatment may reduce the symptoms of RSD and allow you to resume normal activities. Conversely, delays in prompt diagnosis may exacerbate symptoms. Learning symptom management concepts is a better way to maintain a good quality of life for people with RSD.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Can RSD be prevented?

There are no precautions for RSD. However, staying active after a stroke or heart attack may reduce the chance of having a stroke or heart attack. Taking vitamin C after a fracture may also help.

What factors put you at risk for developing RSD?

Risk factors that may increase your risk of developing RSD include:

  • Age group: If you are in your 40s to 60s
  • Gender: Women are more likely to have RSD than men
  • Other health conditions: if you suffer from other health conditions such as inflammatory or autoimmune diseases

https://healthlibrary.askapollo.com/reflex-sympathetic-dystrophy-rsd-symptoms-diagnosis-treatment/ Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD): Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment

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