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: sweetpea62308, 45-54 Female (Patient) Published: January 21

I was diagnosed with reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome in 2002 after an injury to my left shoulder. I finally found a wonderful doctor who has me on pain management. The weather plays a big part of how I am going to be for the day. I have severe twitching, and my arm turns blue, I cannot tolerate cold anything. I have to literally dress as warm as possible, even in the summer. I now am pretty sure it has spread to my lower limb, because now that turns purple and feels extremely cold. In 2006 the same doctor diagnosed me with multiple sclerosis, but refused to put me on medication for it. I have literally gone to 10 doctors for help, they don't even know what RSD is. I am so frustrated. My blood pressure is so high due to the pain, I also haven't seen anything on the symptoms to say that it could spread, but I am here to say it does. I also have fibromyalgia.

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Comment from: Lizzy, 55-64 Female (Patient) Published: May 14

I had carpal tunnel surgery, and next day I had severe burning and throbbing. Pain like I have never had. When I walked in the office they did not recognize me for the wretched look on my face. I was throwing myself against the wall with burning pain. It is reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome (RSD) the doctor said, and to get to a pain management doctor immediately. I had several blocks and lots of medications and a tremendous amount of hand therapy. Roughly six months of my life was spent dealing with this pain. The pain is gone now but I can feel electricity in fingers when they rub together. I was told to have as little surgery as possible, by a famous sports doctor.

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