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Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy

Also known as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome, the Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy is a disorder that affects the sympathetic nervous system. The condition is characterized by chronic, severe pain commonly affecting the arms and the legs. The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for the regulation of involuntary functions of the body such as, increasing and decreasing heart rate, constricting blood vessels and increasing blood pressure. The sympathetic nervous system is part of the autonomic nervous system. It is thought that the excessive or abnormal responses of portions of the sympathetic nervous system cause for the pain associated with reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome.

The condition usually occurs after an injury, surgery, stroke or heart attack, however the pain of abnormal or out of proportion to the severity of the initial injury.

The cause of the condition is not very clear, but if diagnosed early with prompt treatment, improvement, as well as remission, is possible.


  • There is burning pain felt in the arms or leg, hand or foot that is continuous
  • Hypersensitivity to touch or cold
  • Swelling on the painful area
  • Skin temperature changes
  • Skin color can also chance that range from white to mottled red or blue
  • Skin texture will also change either from tenderness, thin or shiny
  • Nail and hair growth is also affected
  • Joint stiffness
  • Atrophy or muscle weakness
  • Inability to move the affected body part

But the symptoms can vary from on affected individual to the other. Gradually, the affected limb can become cold and pale. Skin and nail changes will also occur including muscles spasms. When these changes occur, often the condition is irreversible.

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If you think you are suffering from Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy you should seek medical assistance. You may also be entitled to Social Security Disability Benefits. The SSA considered Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy 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).