The key RSD symptom is continuous, intense pain out of proportion to the severity of the injury, which gets worse rather than better over time.
Besides continuous, intense pain, other symptoms can include:
- "Burning" pain
- Increased skin sensitivity
- Changes in skin texture (shiny and thin and sometimes excessively sweaty)
- Changes in skin temperature (warmer or cooler compared to the opposite extremity)
- Changes in skin color (often blotchy, purple, pale, or red)
- Changes in nail and hair growth patterns
- Motor disability, with decreased ability to move the affected body part
- Swelling and stiffness in affected joints.
Symptoms can vary in severity and length. Some experts believe there are three stages associated with RSD, marked by progressive changes in the skin, muscles, joints, ligaments, and bones of the affected area.
(Click RSD Symptoms for more information.)
To help make a diagnosis, the doctor will first take a detailed medical history, which includes asking questions about a person's general health, symptoms, family medical history, and history of trauma. The doctor will also do a complete physical exam to check for other signs of RSD and will likely recommend certain tests.
Because there is no cure, treatments for RSD are aimed at relieving painful symptoms so that people can resume their normal lives. The following treatments for RSD may include:
- Physical therapy
- Surgical sympathectomy
- Intrathecal drug pumps
- Spinal cord stimulation.
(Click Treatments for RSD for more information.)