What is RSD?

RSD stands for reflex sympathetic dystrophy, and it is also known as complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS). It is a chronic but uncommon condition marked by aching pain and intense burning that affects your arms, legs, and other parts of your body.

How Does it Happen?

There are two types of RSD. The first type occurs after an injury or illness that did not directly involve your nerves. The second type is caused by a specific nerve injury. Some traumas that can cause RSD include surgeries, fractures, gunshot wounds, heart attacks, and infections.

What are the Signs and Symptoms?

In most cases, RSD is known for intense pain that gradually gets worse. Other symptoms are these:

  • Sensitive skin, including skin that is hot and then cold
  • Areas of skin that turn red or other colors or seem mottled
  • A burning sensation in your leg, foot, arm, or hand
  • Joint stiffness and swelling
  • Inability to move the affected area
  • Changes in normal growth of nails and hair
  • Muscle spasms

How is it Diagnosed?

Your doctor will review your medical history and do a physical exam. He or she will also gather information from x-rays, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), and bone scans. In addition sympathetic nervous system tests can detect problems with your nervous system.

How is it Treated?

To treat RSD, your doctor may use a number of therapies and medications. Physical therapy and occupational therapy can help you strengthen muscles and improve range of motion. Applying heat and cold to the affected areas can reduce swelling. You may benefit from bone-loss medications as well as medications to block the pain fibers in your nerves. Other options include spinal cord stimulation and biofeedback.

What is the Prognosis?

If you begin treatment soon after your initial symptoms, you may be able to control the pain and even experience remission. However, if treatment is delayed, allowing the affected limb to become tight, cold, and pale, as well as undergo muscle spasms, the condition may not be reversible.