Reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome (RSDS) is a condition that features a group of typical symptoms, including pain (often "burning" type), tenderness, and swelling of an extremity associated with varying degrees of sweating, warmth and/or coolness, flushing, discoloration, and shiny skin.

What causes reflex sympathetic dystrophy?

RSDS is also referred to as "the shoulder-hand syndrome," "causalgia," and "Sudeck's atrophy." The exact mechanism of how RSDS develops is poorly understood. The theories include irritation and abnormal excitation of nervous tissue, leading to abnormal impulses along nerves that affect blood vessels and skin. A variety of events can trigger the condition, including trauma, surgery, heart disease, degenerative arthritissof the neck, stroke or other brain diseases, nerve irritation by entrapment (such as carpal tunnel syndrome) or shingles, shoulder problems, breast cancer, and drugs for tuberculosis and barbiturates. There is no associated event in one-third of patients.

What are the symptoms of reflex sympathetic dystrophy?

The onset of the RSDS symptoms may be rapid on gradual. The condition may not display all features. It has been bilateral in up to half of the patients. There are several stages:

Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome At A Glance