Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome - Symptoms

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What are the symptoms of reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD)?

The onset of RSD symptoms may be rapid or gradual. The condition may not display all features. It is bilateral (involving both sides of the body) in up to half of people with RSD. There are several stages of RSD with symptoms that include:

  1. Acute (three to six months): burning, flushing, blanching, sweating, swelling, pain, and tenderness. This stage can show early X-ray changes of patchy bone thinning.
  2. Dystrophic (three to six months): early skin changes of shiny, thickened skin and contracture with persistent pain, but diminished swelling and flushing.
  3. Atrophic (may be long-standing): loss of motion and function of the involved hand or foot with contracture (flexed scarring process), and thinning of the fatty layers under the skin. X-ray can show significant osteoporosis.
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Comment from: Survivor, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: December 31

I have had reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome (RSD) for well over 12 years. Mine started with a total knee replacement. I felt like I was going crazy, I couldn't stand anything to touch my knee and the pain felt like my knee was constantly being broke (I try to describe the pain as when you break a bone, that's the pain I constantly have). I was finally referred to a wonder pain specialist. He assured me I wasn't crazy and he would help me. After several months of medication, blocks and everything else, he implanted a pain pump. The relief was like day and night. It doesn't take away all the pain, but I can live again. I take pain medication for the bleed-over pain but I can live with it. I didn't go into all the months before I went to the pain clinic because they were a blur. I was so overmedicated I really can't remember them other than they were horrible. I also had to quit work and go on disability because of this disease. I tell everyone that asks, if I hadn't gone to the pain clinic when I did I probably wouldn't be here today. All I can say is don't give up. There are doctors who do care and I know how frustrating it is to try and get doctors to listen to you. You just have to keep trying until you find the right doctor.

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Comment from: 45-54 Male (Patient) Published: January 05

I was diagnosed with reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome in 2004 after I sliced my tendons in my hand. Sometimes wish I could chop it off, it would be easier. My fingers are locked and I cannot open my hand. I get swelling, pain, pins and needles, hot cold pins and needles, winter being the worst time. Now after 11 years they think they can open my hand with physiotherapy, when they not sure it will work, and I have more pain.

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