Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Type 1, CRPS)

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

  • Medical Editor: Steven Doerr, MD
    Steven Doerr, MD

    Steven Doerr, MD

    Steven Doerr, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Emergency Medicine Physician. Dr. Doerr received his undergraduate degree in Spanish from the University of Colorado at Boulder. He graduated with his Medical Degree from the University Of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver, Colorado in 1998 and completed his residency training in Emergency Medicine from Denver Health Medical Center in Denver, Colorado in 2002, where he also served as Chief Resident.

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Reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD) facts

  • Reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD) is characterized by a group of symptoms including pain (often "burning" type), tenderness, and swelling of an extremity associated with varying degrees of sweating, warmth and/or coolness, flushing, discoloration, and shiny skin.
  • How RSD occurs is not known, but there are often triggering events.
  • Symptoms of RSD often occur in three stages: 1) acute, 2) dystrophic, and 3) atrophic.
  • Diagnosis of RSD is based on clinical findings, supported by radiological tests.
  • Treatment of RSD is most effective in the earlier stages.

What is reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD)?

Reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD) is a condition that features a group of typical symptoms, including pain (often "burning" type), tenderness, and swelling of an extremity associated with varying degrees of sweating, warmth and/or coolness, flushing, discoloration, and shiny skin. RSD is also referred to as "complex regional pain syndrome," "the shoulder-hand syndrome," "causalgia," and "Sudeck's atrophy."

Medically Reviewed by a Doctor on 2/25/2016

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