Reflex sympathetic dystrophy is a painful nerve problem that can rarely occur in the hand or foot or other area that has been hurt or has never been hurt. If untreated, the pain and weakness that RSD may cause can limit use of the injured region.
Reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD) is also known as complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS, Type 1). CRPS type 2 was formerly called causalgia. RSD or CRPS-1 is the term used when there is no prior nerve injury. CRPS-2 is used when there has been prior nerve injury. Both have the same symptoms and clinical picture.
The cause of RSD is unknown. CRPS-2 may be caused by injury. Getting injured may trigger RSD. It can be something minor, like a sprain or a cut. Or, it may be more severe, like a fracture or a surgery, such as carpal tunnel release. As you’re healing, you may feel new, severe pain in the injured region. That pain may spread through the injured limb. Over time, other symptoms may appear.
If you aren’t treated soon, the symptoms of RSD can worsen or change over time. Below are symptoms and signs that can occur in the injured region:
Severe, burning pain
Sensitive to touch (pain from physical contact that normally would not be painful)
Swollen, reddish or purple look
Change in temperature to the affected body part
Warm and sweaty sensation
Skin slowly withering
Skin that becomes dry and shiny
Loss of strength
Strange hair growth
Ridges in skin look flatter than normal
Shrinkage of the affected limb
Constant swelling of the foot or hand
Spreading to other limbs
Abnormal movements of the involved extremity such as tremor and involuntary movements
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