Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) usually affects extremities such as the hands, feet, with pain and wasting of tissues as its main symptoms. The illness is much more common than generally realized, and it may be a component of many other diseases. RSD can be triggered by an injury such as cut, sprain or fracture. Pain, even after the most severe injury, usually disappears within six weeks as part of the healing process. However, the symptoms of RSD can develop days, weeks, or months after an injury. The prolonged (chronic) pain caused by RSD may be related to the inability of the sympathetic nervous system to shut down after an injury.
If diagnosed and treated early, RSD is curable. If undiagnosed and allowed to progress, RSD leads to permanent deformities, immobility of the limbs, and will spread to large segments of the body. At an advanced stage of the illness, all patients have significant psychiatric problems and narcotic dependency and are completely incapacitated by the disease. RSD does not significantly decrease a patient’s lifespan, so patients fact the existence of continuous severe pain.
If you believe that you may be suffering from RSD as the result of an injury, we urge you to call us at 1-800-718-4658 or click here to discuss your legal rights.
Symptoms of RSD
1. Pain: constant, burning pain, and in some forms at times during the course of the disease, stabbing type of pain (causalgic). The pain is relentless and is invariably accompanied by allodynia (even simple touch or breeze aggravating the pain) and hyperpathia (marked painful response to even a simple stimulation).
2. Spasms in the blood vessels of the skin and muscles of the extremities. The spasms in the blood vessels result in a cold extremity. The muscle spasms result in tremor, movement disorders such as dystonia, flexion spasm, weakness and clumsiness of the extremities, and tendency to fall.
3. RSD is accompanied by a certain degree of inflammation in practically all cases. This inflammation may be in the form of: swelling (edema), skin rash (neurodermatitis), inflammatory changes of the skin color (mottled or purplish, bluish or reddish or pale discolorations), tendency for bleeding in the skin, skin becoming easily bruised, inflammation and swelling around the joints as well as in the joints (such as wrists, shoulders, knee, etc.) which can be identified on MRI in later stages, and secondary freezing of the joints.
4. The fourth component and pre-requisite of diagnosis of RSD is insomnia and emotional disturbance. The fact that the sympathetic sensory nerve fibers carrying the sympathetic pain and impulse up to the brain terminate in the part of the brain called “limbic system”. This limbic (marginal) system which is positioned between the old brain (brainstem) and the new brain (cerebral hemispheres) is mainly located over the temporal and frontal lobes of the brain. The disturbance of function of these parts of the brain results in insomnia, agitation, depression, irritability, and disturbance of judgment. Insomnia is an integral part of an untreated RSD. So are problems of depression, irritability, and agitation.
Treatment of RSD is most effective when it is part of a comprehensive pain management program. This treatment will usually include psychological evaluations, physical therapy, and pain medication. Treatment of RSD requires an experienced team effort, especially between the anesthesiologist and psychologist or psychiatrist. Treatment may also include the overall coordination of the patient’s care by a rehabilitation provider or nurse with expertise in the field of RSD.
Problems with RSD
RSD was first diagnosed over 100 years ago during the American Civil War. While it continues to be a major catastrophic disease resulting from injury, some physicians continue to question its existence, especially during the early stages when the disease presents no definitive physical evidence. Unfortunately, the physician who fails to diagnose and initiate early treatment of RSD may foreclose a possible cure. No laboratory test presently exists to diagnose RSD in its early stages. The early diagnosis depends on the ability of the physician to identify and piece together the many signs of RSD, which do not always follow the textbook description.
Furthermore, many healthcare centers lack a standardized approach to the diagnosis and treatment of RSD. Many patients find themselves going nowhere or going in circles their care. This can create problems for patients who are receiving Workers’ Compensation benefits or pursuing personal injury claims.
If you think, you have RSD from an accident related injury contact us immediately. We have handled to conclusion many RSD injury claims.
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