Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy
Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, also known as Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), is a condition of intense burning pain, stiffness, swelling, and discoloration that most often affects the hand. Arms, legs, and feet can also be affected by Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrom. Both are nerve disorders characterized by chronic severe burning pain, pathological changes in bone and skin, excessive sweating, tissue swelling and extreme sensitivity to touch. Reflex Sympathetic is sometimes called Type I CRPS, which is triggered by tissue injury where there is no underlying nerve injury, while Type II CRPS refers to cases where a high-velocity impact (such as a bullet wound) occurred at the site and is clearly associated with nerve injury.
What are symptoms of RSD/CRPS?
Continuous, intense pain that is out of proportion to the severity of the injury (if an injury occurred) and which gets worse rather than better over time. It most often affects the arms, legs, hands or feet and is accompanied by:
- “burning” pain
- increased skin sensitivity
- changes in skin temperature: warmer or cooler compared to the opposite extremity
- changes in skin color: often blotchy, purple, pale or red
- changes in skin texture: shiny and thin, sometimes excessively sweaty
- changes in nail and hair growth patterns
- swelling and stiffness in affected joint
- motor disability, with decreased ability to move affected body part
Early diagnosis and treatment are important in order to prevent Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy from developing into the later stages. Physical therapy is a primary component of treatment. There also are several types of medications that can be used and sometimes elevating the affected extremity may be helpful. There also are surgical procedures that are used in some cases.