Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy

Reflex sympathetic dystrophy, also known as (RSD) is a complex regional pain syndrome, a rare disorder of the sympathetic nervous system. It is characterized by severe and debilitating pain that can progressively get worse over time. RSD is also known as Type 1 CRPS.

RSD or Type 1 CRPS occurs after an injury or illness that indirectly damages a nerve in the affected limb. It typically follows a minor or major tissue injury to the extremities. It is the dominant type to occur in patients with about 90% of individuals experiencing Type 1.

Symptoms of RSD

The pain caused by RSD is typically severe and may continue long after the initial injury has healed. The injured limb may swell or sweat, along with temperature changes and altered skin tone. The skin may also become thin and prone to infections and sores.

Causes of RSD

Many cases of RSD occur after a forceful trauma to an arm or leg, including a crushing injury, fracture, or amputation. Other major and minor traumas, including surgery, heart attacks, infections, and sprains can lead to CRPS.

Diagnosis of RSD

Upon seeking medical help for suspected RSD, your doctor will ask about your medical history and look for swollen joints and changes in skin temperature and appearance. The diagnosis is based on clinical findings that exclude other possible causes. A number of diagnostic tests can help eliminate these other causes and confirm a diagnosis. These tests include:

Scans, including ultrasounds

Electrodiagnostic testing


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