What Is Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy?

What Is Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy?

           Reflex sympathetic dystrophy is a very rare condition among people in the United States. It is a chronic form of pain that will typically affect a person’s arms or legs. In most cases, reflex sympathetic dystrophy occurs after injury or trauma, surgery, stroke, or heart attack. The pain the patient experiences is often not proportionate to what the patient should be feeling. Because the condition is so rare, it is not fully understood. As a result, the earlier a person can get treatment, the more effective the treatment is likely to be. With early treatment, pain can eventually lessen and some patients even go into remission.


           There are a variety of different symptoms a person may experience if they are suffering from reflex sympathetic dystrophy. These symptoms include continuous throbbing or burning pain, sensitivity to temperature changes, swelling, extreme changes in skin temperature and color, skin texture changes, joint damage, muscle spasms, and a decreased ability to move the affected body part normally. The symptoms a person starts with may change over time. Unfortunately, once the limb becomes cold and pale, it is often a sign that the condition is irreversible.

What Is Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy?

           One of the reasons it is important to begin treatment as soon as possible is because reflex sympathetic dystrophy can spread to other parts of the body over time. Reflex sympathetic dystrophy is unique in that symptoms go away on their own in some people. However, other people may have symptoms for months or years on end. It is not fully understood how reflex sympathetic dystrophy develops or why it only develops in some people and not others. 


           Reflex sympathetic dystrophy can lead to complications if it is not diagnosed early on. Tissue wasting can occur when stiffness becomes so severe the patient stops moving their affected limb. Muscle tightening can also occur. Once this occurs, patients may end up with their fingers and toes permanently fixed in this tightened position. Fortunately, there are some treatments that exist to help ease discomfort for this condition.


           Many patients are put on a combination of medication such as pain relievers, corticosteroids, and Sympathetic nerve-blocking medication. Patients can also benefit from various therapies such as physical therapy, heat therapy, and electrical nerve stimulation amongst others. In addition, stem cell therapy is becoming more widely used for patients suffering from reflex sympathetic dystrophy. Stem cell therapy helps to regenerate new cells to replace damaged cells in the body. This can help minimize pain and reverse the damage that has been done.


           Reflex sympathetic dystrophy is a really difficult condition to live with. Many people never know when they are going to have a flare-up. These flare-ups can keep people from going to work, spending time with their kids, or enjoying social situations. There is no cure that exists, but treatment can help to manage symptoms and keep the condition from spreading to other parts of the body. Fortunately, stem cell therapy has shown a lot of promise in helping patients suffering from reflex sympathetic dystrophy


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