What is RSD?
Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome (RSD) - also known as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) - is a chronic neurological syndrome characterized by:
- severe burning pain
- pathological changes in bone and skin
- excessive sweating
- tissue swelling
- extreme sensitivity to touch
Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome (RSD), also known as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) is a chronic pain syndrome characterized by severe and relentless pain that affects between 200,000 and 1.2 million Americans.
CRPS/RSD is a malfunction of part of the nervous system. Nerves misfire, sending constant pain signals to the brain. The syndrome develops in response to an event the body regards as traumatic, such as an accident or a medical procedure. This syndrome may follow 5% of all injuries.
Minor injuries can cause major problems. Minor injuries, such as a sprain or a fall are frequent causes of CRPS/RSD. One characteristic of CRPS/RSD is that the pain is more severe than expected for the type of injury that occurred.
Early and accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment are key to recovery, yet many health care professionals and consumers are unaware of its signs and symptoms. Typically, people with CRPS/RSD report seeing an average of 5 physicians before being accurately diagnosed.
Symptoms include persistent moderate-to-severe pain, swelling, abnormal skin color changes, skin temperature, sweating, limited range of movement, movement disorders.
CRPS/RSD is 2 to 3 times more frequent in females than males.
The mean age at diagnosis is 42 years. However, we are seeing more injuries among young girls, and children as young as 3 years old can get CRPS/RSD.
This is not a psychological syndrome, but children may develop psychological problems when physicians, parents, teachers and other children do not believe their complaints of pain.
Treatment may include medication, physical therapy, psychological support, sympathetic nerve blocks and, possibly, sympathectomy, or dorsal column stimulator.
This new edition of the guidelines has been edited by R. Norman Harden, MD, Director, Center for Pain Studies, Addison Chair, Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago; Associate Professor, Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation, Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, IL.