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January 26, 2013: Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy


Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy

This week, Dr. Cassaro discussed Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy.

There are lots of people who live with Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, and sadly, that number is growing every year. Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy is also known as "Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). It is the same condition. Other terms used might include "causalgia".

Q- What is Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy?

A- Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy is a chronic pain condition that primarily affects the limbs of the body. It is described as an intense, burning pain that is disproportionate to the injury that seemingly caused it. The condition will worsen over time, especially if proper diagnosis and treatment are not applied in the earliest stages.

Q- What causes Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy?

A- Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy is caused when a nerve becomes injured, and then sends a constant, amplified pain signal regardless of the stimulation. In most cases, there was already an existing metabolic abnormality present in the body at the time of the injury. The injury does not have to be dramatic, a simple puncture wound, a cut, even an insect sting/bite can trigger Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy.

Q- Are there other symptoms besides pain?

A- Yes. In addition to severe, burning pain these symptoms may also be present...

Changes in skin
Changes in hair and nails
Changes in limb size
Changes in strength
Generalized pain
Joint pain
Worsening pain
Spreading pain
Body temperature
Increased skin sensitivity
Headaches Digestive changes/problems
Metabolic problems
Burning feeling on skin
Muscle spasm/pain
Increased muscle tone/stiffness
Chronic fatigue
Excessive sweating
Increased infection/illness
Vision problems
Loss of libido
Autoimmune conditions

Q- Does Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy come on suddenly after an injury?

A- Yes, in most cases, the pain after a nerve injury should go away in several days...getting better as each day passes. One of the early warning signs of Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy is pain after a nerve injury that gets worse after a few days...and continues to worsen.

Q- Is age/race/sex a factor in developing Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy?

A- Yes, and no. More commonly it affects more women than men, and usually women in mid life. However, it can affect women, and men, young and old.

Q. Are there things that can make the pain from Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy worse?

A. Yes. There are several things that can make pain experienced from Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (or any pain condition for that matter) worse...a few of these are:

Diet - Sugar, starches, grains, artificial sweeteners, food additives, food preservatives (esp. MSG)

Thyroid/Metabolism - The metabolism is a major component in the transmission of any nerve signal.

Medications - At the top of the list are acid blockers (not to be confused with antacids), and statens (cholesterol medications).

Q. What are some treatments for Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy?

A. Treatments for Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy vary according to the advancement/progression of the individuals condition. Here are a few of the treatments that might be explored:

Nutritional supplements - Vitamin D3, Vitamin C, Vitamin B12, Fish oil, Magnesium, Epsom salts

Professional: Spinal stimulator, Prescription-strength topical medications, MSM, Diet modifications, metabolic modifications/treatment, diet/lifestyle restrictions

Other treatments:

Vitamin c
Fish oil
Epsom salts
Elimination diet
Vitamin E
Alpha Lipoic Acid
N-Acetyl Cysteine
Ginger Root
DMSO Cream
St. John's Wort in olive oil-(numbs skin)
Vitamin D3
Cayenne pepper
Topical medications
Nerve blocks
Spinal stimulator
Radio frequency
TENS unit