Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) is a chronic condition where high levels of nerve impulses are sent to affected areas. These high impulses result in pain in the affected areas. RSD can develop after an injury and usually affects a single arm or leg. There is no one specific cause of Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy and no known cure. Pain caused by RSD can be managed with the help of a doctor. 

Symptoms of Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy

Many symptoms may be associated with Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy. The number of symptoms and severity of each will vary depending on the person. Symptoms of this condition include:

Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy

  • Burning or throbbing pain, usually in an arm, leg, hand, or foot
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Sensitivity to cold
  • Swelling of the affected area
  • Changes in skin temperature
  • Changes in skin color (white and blotchy, red, or blue)
  • Tender, thin, or shiny skin in the affected area
  • Joint stiffness or swelling
  • Muscle spasms or tremors
  • Muscle weakness or atrophy
  • Decreased mobility of the affected area

Risk Factors

Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy can have many causes. You are more likely to develop RSD after an injury. The pain associated with RSD is often more intense than the pain caused by the injury itself. Some risk factors for developing RSD can include:

  • Dislocations or fractures of ankles and wrists
  • Experiencing higher than usual levels of pain in the early phases of an injury
  • Stroke or heart attack
  • High levels of stress
  • Inflammation
  • Psychological factors (anxiety, depression, or anger)

When to See a Doctor

If you are experiencing pain from an unknown cause, you should schedule an appointment with a doctor right away. If you have recently recovered from an injury and are experiencing high levels of pain in the recently injured area, discussing your symptoms with a doctor that specializes in pain can help you get the pain management treatment that is best for you.