What is reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome?

Reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome, also known as complex regional pain syndrome, is a chronic pain disorder. Reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome can occur in any part of the body, but it most commonly occurs in an arm or leg. Generally, the pain is intense and continuous. The pain gets worse over time, rather than better, and may spread.

The cause of reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome is not known, but it is often related to an injury or infection, which may inflame a nerve. In rare cases, an illness, such as a stroke or heart attack, may be the cause. The pain of reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome is generally greater than the severity of the injury that caused it.

In addition to pain, symptoms of reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome include changes in skin temperature, changes in hair growth, muscle spasms, discoloration of the skin, stiff joints, and the potential for muscle wasting. These symptoms can be very severe and disruptive.

Currently, there is no cure for reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome, but it can be treated. Treatments for reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome include physical therapy, pain medications, and behavioral therapy. In severe cases, treatment may involve cutting or blocking the nerve.

Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for severe, constant burning pain that is interfering with your ability to function.

Seek prompt medical care for chronic pain, as early diagnosis and treatment of reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome improves your chances of alleviating symptoms.

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome?

Symptoms of reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome include pain related to problems with a nerve. Pain may be related to a mild injury or infection, but is often disproportionate to the severity of the injury. Usually the symptoms of reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome progress through three phases, however, symptoms can occur at any time.

First stage symptoms of reflex sympa... Read more about reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndromesymptoms

CAUSES

What causes reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome?

The exact cause of reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome is not known. It is possible that a trigger event, such as an injury or an infection, causes damage to a nerve. This nerve then loses control of its normal functions, including sensation (feeling), sweating, temperature sensitivity, and even blood flow. Over time, this loss of function leads to worsening pain a... Read more about reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndromecauses

TREATMENTS

How is reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome treated?

Currently, there is no cure for reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome, although research is being done to find one. However, reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome can be treated and may go into remission if prompt treatment is obtained. Treatments for reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome are intended to treat the pain and loss of function that can result from the condition.

B... Read more about reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrometreatments

Medical Reviewer: William C. Lloyd III, MD, FACS Last Annual Review Date: Sep 6, 2013 Copyright: © Copyright 2014 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Brain and Nerves