Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome: 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 and muscle dysfunction. Because of this, preventative measures include early mobilization after fracture, myocardial infarction, or stroke. Vitamin C use after fracture also lowers rates of reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome.

The word “sympathetic” in reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome refers to the sympathetic nervous system, which controls functions like blood flow and sweating. A problem with the sympathetic nervous system can lead to damage of blood vessels, muscle, sweat glands, and hair follicles that are served by the damaged nerve. Problems with the sympathetic nervous system lead to many of the symptoms of reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome.

What are the risk factors for reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome?

A number of factors increase the risk of developing reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome. Not all people with risk factors will get reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome. Risk factors for reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome include:

  • Age between 40 and 60 years
  • Infection, especially of a limb
  • Injury, especially of a limb
INTRODUCTION

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.

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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.

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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.

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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