Reflex sympathetic dystrophy

Published 06/11 2014 02:27PM

Updated 06/11 2014 02:27PM

'Reflex sympathetic dystrophy' is a controversial condition whose symptoms include prolonged pain following an injury, trauma, surgery, infection, or heart disease that's usually more severe than the injury itself. The injury may have been serious, or it could have been something as simple as a stubbed toe or sprained ankle. Symptoms may include severe, burning pain in a localized area, intense sensitivity to temperature and light touch, and a change in skin color. R-S-D may be progressive, beginning with swelling and redness; then a change in color and temperature of the affected area may occur, and finally there's a possible wasting of affected muscles. Some medical professionals report that R-S-D may actually be either a psychiatric disorder with psychosomatic symptoms or, in some cases, may amount to a faked incapacity. They warn against performing unnecessary tests or procedures-- especially invasive ones-- on affected patients and also against failing to diagnose the true, underlying cause of the patient's problem. Others concerned about R-S-D assert that many other chronic pain disorders may be mistakenly diagnosed as this syndrome because of similarities in clinical presentations. R-S-D is treated with drugs, nerve blocks, and physical therapy. More extreme treatments include implantable devices, such as a spinal cord stimulator or drug delivery pump, or even removal of nerves in some cases.

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