Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD)
Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy syndrome (RSD) is a complex multi-symptom pain syndrome affecting a limb or limbs that can affect any one of any age. It usually occurs following tissue damage to the limb, but it can also be triggered by visceral diseases, central nervous system lesions or from unknown causes.
RSD can strike at any age, but is more common between the ages of 40 and 60. It affects both men and women, but is most frequently seen in women. Although it is more common in the older age groups, the number of RSD cases among adolescents and young adults is increasing.
It often affects the hand or foot, but may also involve the knee, hip, shoulder, or other sites. The main symptom of RSD is severe pain, often burning in nature.
The disorder may eventually result in dystrophy (weakness or wasting) of the area. Early diagnosis and proper treatment are very important if RSD is to be successfully managed.
There is no single test for diagnosing RSD. Diagnosis is a clinical one and is made through observation of the patient’s signs and symptoms. When diagnosed and treated within the first 3 to 6 months, there is the highest possibility of cure and treatment of RSD is most effective.
The most important element of treating RSD syndrome is restoring normal movement to the affected part. This condition is easiest to treat in its early phases. Much of the treatment is based on a courageous effort of the patient to get the hand or foot moving again, even if it is uncomfortable. A formal Physiotherapy exercise and movement programme and other treatments may help maintain flexibility and strength.
A TENS (Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulator) unit (see Electrotherapy) or biofeedback may be tried. A TENS unit is a small, battery-operated device which relieves pain by blocking nerve impulses. Biofeedback is a technique which can help control pain, blood flow, and skin temperature.
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