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Reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome or RSDS is a rare disorder of the sympathetic nervous system. It is characterized by severe chronic pain. The sympathetic nervous system is part of the ANS or autonomic nervous system that is responsible for the involuntary functions in the body. These functions include increasing or decreasing heart rate, constricting blood vessels or increasing blood pressure. Experts believe that it is because of the abnormal responses of the sympathetic nervous system that is responsible for the pain related to reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome.
The initial stage of reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome will exhibit signs and symptoms. It usually begins with burning pain, in the arms, fingers, the palm of the hands or shoulders. Some people may have the condition in one or both legs or can be focused on only one knee or hip. More often than not, reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome can be misdiagnosed as a nerve injury. Edema on the site of the affected area and inflammation are common signs. The affected area may be very sensitive to stimuli such as touch or hot and cold temperatures also called cutaneous hypersensitivity. Vasomotor instability or there is excessive perspiration in the affected area or it can be warm to the touch.
The cause of reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome is not yet fully understood, but there are several theories that would associate the disorder to an injury to the nerves, atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, infection or radiation therapy, and surgery.

Signs and Symptoms

RSDS is divided into three stages upon the onset of the disorder. These include the stages and symptoms.

  • Three to six months from the onset of the disease also called the acute stage: individuals may experience the following, flushing, sweating, swelling, pain and tenderness in the affected area.
  • Dystrophic or three to six months period: the swelling and flushing may be gone, but there will be early changes on the skin, to shiny, thickened skin and contracture with constant pain
  • Atrophic or the long-term stage: symptoms include loss of motion on the affected hand and foot with contracture, there is thinning on the fatty layers under the skin.

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If you think you are suffering from Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome you should seek medical assistance. You may also be entitled to Social Security Disability Benefits. The SSA considered Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome as a medical condition that would make you eligible for SSDI and SSI. Social Security Administration (SSA) maintains a “Listing of Medical Impairments” (known as the blue book) that automatically qualify you for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) or Supplemental Security Income (SSI).