Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) Syndrome or Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)

Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) describes one form of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). Both RSD and CRPS are chronic conditions characterized by severe burning pain, most often affecting one of the extremities (arms, legs, hands, or feet). There are often pathological changes in bone and skin, excessive sweating, tissue swelling and extreme sensitivity to touch, known as allodynia.

RSD 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 which occurred at the site and is clearly associated with nerve injury. RSD is unusual in that it affects the nerves, skin, muscles, blood vessels and bones at the same time.

The key symptom of RSD/CRPS is chronic, intense pain that is out of proportion to the severity of the injury and which progressively gets worse over time rather than better. It most often affects the arms, legs, hands or fee. It is often accompanied by: burning pain, increased skin sensitivity to touch, 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 the affected body part.

RSD may be treated with physical therapy, medications and surgical procedures, which may also help reduce symptoms, but there’s no cure at this time.


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