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Reflex sympathetic dystrophy is the feeling of pain associated with evidence of minor nerve injury.
Historically, reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD) was noticed during the civil war in patients who suffered
It has been thought that each phase relates to a specific nerve defect that involves nerve tracts from the periphery spinal cord to the brain. Both sexes are affected, but the number of new cases is higher in women, adolescents, and young adults. RDS has been associated with other terms such as Sudeck's atrophy, post-traumatic osteoporosis, causalgia, shoulder-hand syndrome, and reflex neuromuscular dystrophy.
The exact causes of RSD at present is not clearly understood. There are several theories such as sympathetic overflow (over activity), abnormal circuitry in nerve impulses through the sympathetic system, and as a post-operative complication for both elective and traumatic surgical procedures. Patients typically develop pain, swelling, temperature, color changes, and skin and muscle wasting.
The diagnosis is simple and confirmed by a local anesthetic block along sympathetic nerve paths in the hand or foot, depending on whether an arm or leg is affected. A test called the erythrocyte sedimentation rate (ESR) can be performed to rule out diseases with similar presentation and arising from other causes.
The preferred method to treat RSD includes sympathetic block and physical therapy. Pain is improved as motion of the affected limb improves. Patients may also require tranquilizers and mild analgesics. Patients who received repeated blocks should consider surgical symathectomy (removal of the nerves causing pain).
Author Info: Laith Farid Gulli M.D., Robert Ramirez B.S., The Gale Group Inc., Gale, Detroit, Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine, 2002This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to replace the care and information received from your healthcare provider. Please consult a healthcare professional with any health concerns you may have.
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