Reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome (RSD) is poorly understood by patients, their families, and healthcare professionals. In some cases the condition is mild, in some it is moderate, and in others it is severe. We have compiled a list of some of the common misconceptions about this syndrome followed by the facts.
CRPS/RSD Fact Sheet
- 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.
- RSD is a malfunction of part of the nervous system. Nerves misfire, sending constant pain signals to the brain. RSD 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 five 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 two to three 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.