Symptoms, treatment and hope

Symptoms, treatment and hope

09/10/2008, 9:19 am


Kate Reynoldsewsroom@mywebtimes.com, 815-433-2000

While Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy is considered a rare disorder, it is a growing public health concern. According to the executive director of the Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome Association, Jim Broatch, “severe cases can cost $500,000 to $1 million in health and financial costs.

“A recent Internet-based epidemiological survey of 1,462 people with RSDA conducted by The John Hopkins School of Medicine exposed the financial devastation:

  • 41 percent suffered a work-related injury;
  • 60 percent reported being disabled; and only
  • 16 percent reported being employed full time and 6 percent reported being employed part time.”

    One of the problems with this chronic neurological syndrome is that it may not show up for several days or even weeks after the injury.

    “Another problem is that most medical professionals are unaware of the telltale symptoms and individuals who develop Complex Regional Pain Syndrome visit an average of five physicians prior to receive a diagnosis and beginning appropriate treatment,” Broatch wrote in 2007.

    RSD or CRPS advances in four stages.

    The first is an acute stage that lasts for anywhere from one to three months. Symptoms include deep aches, sharp stabbing pain, warmth, coolness, increased sensitivity to touch and accelerated nail and hair growth. After three months, bone changes can be seen with X-rays.

    The dystrophic stage can last from three to six months. The symptoms in the acute stage now are constant. Hair loss may occur and nails may become brittle. Joints may swell and X-rays may show the development of osteoporosis. Short-term memory loss often is a common symptom.

    The atrophic stage can last indefinitely. The acute state symptoms fluctuate and may also spread to other parts of the body, especially a newly injured area. Skin becomes thin. Loss of movement and limited mobility can be experienced. When a patient gets to this stage, irreversible tissue damage is possible.

    The fourth stage is one that many health care professionals do not recognize. RSD patients do not go into remission. Pain-blocking treatments no longer work effectively. Insomnia and stress grow to the point that depression is insurmountable. RSD has been known to lead to suicide in many patients because they can no longer stand the pain.

    Treatments are available, but they do not keep symptoms away indefinitely. An outpatient treatment called nerve blocking is a relatively painless procedure where medication is injected directly on the spine so nerve activity is reduced. Morphine blocks also are used to treat the pain. Surgery is an option, but is not often used because symptoms usually re-appear.

    Some researchers claim if RSD is diagnosed within the first six months, there is an 80 percent reversal rate. After six months, reversal odds decrease every month.

    Until ongoing research can find a cure, most RSD patients attend support groups.

    To see the reality of people who have RSD, visit www.rsdfoundation.org/en/en_howtohelp_transcript.html to read a transcript of a video made by the RSD Foundation and see photos of people who seem normal on the outside while they suffer inside with this disease.

    For more information on RSD, visit the Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome Association at www.rsds.org.


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