Reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome (RSDS), is a rare disorder of the sympathetic nervous system characterized by chronic pain. The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for the involuntary functions of the body including increasing heart rate and blood pressure and constricting blood vessels. The excessive responses of the sympathetic nervous system are believed to contribute to the pain associated with reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome.
Dysfunction in the central or peripheral nervous systems can also trigger the RSDS.
According to pain management doctors Dallas, the syndrome is most common in people between the ages 20-35, but can also occur in children. Study suggests that it affects women more than men.
RSDS, also known as complex regional pain syndrome results from multiple causes producing similar symptoms. The pain receptors in the affected sites of the body become responsive to a group of nervous system messengers, catecholamines. Additionally, in injury-related cases, the syndrome is caused by triggering of the immune system, leading to the inflammatory symptoms of warmth, swelling, and redness in the affected parts. This is one of the common reasons CRPS may disrupt the healing process eventually.
The symptoms of RSDS often vary owing largely to the severity and length of the condition. The symptoms of intense pain tend to be continuous that can get worse over the course of time. When the symptom occurs after an injury it may go more severe and the pain can spread to other region of the body including the entire arm or, leg and can travel to the opposite extremity in some cases.
Some of the symptoms include:
The sensation of burn and pain, often beginning with stiffness, discomfort or weakness in the affected area.
Swelling in the affected joints.
Motor disability contributing to tremendous decreased ability to move the affected body part.
Patients may go through changes with untimely and in some cases rapid growth of hair and nail.
The condition may also involve changes in skin temperature with one extremity of skin experiencing warmer or cooler than the opposite extremity. This may lead to changes in skin color from natural to blotchy, pale, purple or red. The condition can also affect the texture of skin that may alter its natural glow to shiny and thin appearance, and sometimes excessively sweaty.
Doctors may recommend for some imaging studies, including x-rays, bone scans, and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans to make a firm diagnosis of RSDS.
It’s important to have an early diagnosis and treatment in order to prevent RSDS from developing into the later stages.
Physicians may recommend Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), anti-depressants, anti-convulsants, oral corticosteroids and opioid analgesics to relieve symptoms.
Delivering an anesthetic near the affected sympathetic nerves can also help reduce symptoms.
Relaxation techniques and increased body awareness instructed by a professional may help with relief from the pain.
Getting involved in regular activities to emphasize normal use of the affected areas, medications combined with physical and occupational therapy can help patients restore balance in life. Some patients have spoken about finding relief with psychological evaluation and counseling.
If the above nonsurgical treatments bring no good, one can go for surgical procedures including spinal cord stimulator and pain pump implantation designed to help reduce the pain.