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What is RSD syndrome?

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Reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD) syndrome is a regional pain condition characterized by a burning pain, tenderness, inflammation of an extremity, shiny skin, discoloration and flushing. Although the cause of RSD syndrome is not well understood, some experts believe that the excitation or irritation of nervous tissue leads to abnormal nerve impulses which in turn affect skin tissue and blood vessels, according to MedicineNet.

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Some events that have been known to trigger the development of RSD syndrome include heart attack, brain diseases such as a stroke, injuries, surgery, shingles, degenerative arthritis in the neck, breast cancer and shoulder problems. The condition may also appear when an individual is taking barbiturates or tuberculosis drugs. According to MedicineNet, an inciting event cannot be identified in approximately one-third of patients.

No single diagnostic test exists to confirm the presence of RSD syndrome, so health care professionals generally make a diagnosis based on symptoms and medical history while using tests to rule out other conditions such as clotted veins and arthritis. After a diagnosis is made, patients may undergo rehabilitation therapy to improve the strength, function and mobility of the affected limb with exercise. Other treatment options include surgical sympathectomy, spinal cord stimulation, sympathetic nerve block and a variety of medications according to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.

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