Following trauma or disease the body can heal with an unexpected degree of pain, swelling, stiffness, and dysfunction, despite appropriate care. This abnormal response in the nervous system is known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome (RSD) or (RSDS). Causalgia is the term that is used for RSD when the symptoms present following a known traumatic event.

Symptoms of RSD/Causalgia are varied and progress through stages. The first symptoms usually have to do with pain that is out of proportion to the event. The pain is usually described as a burning and sharp stabbing pain, with little treatment that will ease this pain. The foot may be super sensitive with muscle stiffness, less range of motion, and swelling. The foot may initially become very sweaty with redness. As the disease progresses over weeks or months, the foot becomes more bluish, discolored, with hair loss, and shiny thin skin. The stiffness may increase to produce little motion at a joint. These symptoms vary greatly between individuals and depend greatly on the stage of RSD you are in. If you have any question you may have RSD then consult your podiatrist.

Causes of RSD are unclear, although many of the patients have some type of triggering event such as trauma or surgery, in which, the body is healing. The events trigger some abnormal response in the sympathetic nervous system with a reflex that increases this abnormal response. The sympathetic nervous system controls the vasomotor tone of arteries producing an increased blood flow to the foot with developing swelling and redness. The sympathetic system also controls the sweat glands, producing hyperhidrosis, or increased sweating.

Prevention is unavoidable, although an early diagnosis seems to be of some benefit. Treatment in the early stages of RSD appears to have a better outcome. The best prevention may be to get advice from your podiatrist.

Podiatric Care may include physical therapy for range of motion exercises. Nerve blocks with an anesthetic can control pain and is a form of treatment. A consultation by a pain management specialist may be advised by your treating physician. Surgery may also be suggested for a sympathectomy, or partial amputation for extreme cases.