Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome

National Organization for Rare Disorders, Inc.

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This article was last updated on 8/17/2007.
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  • Algodystrophy
  • Algoneurodystrophy
  • Causalgia Syndrome (Major)
  • Reflex Neurovascular Dystrophy
  • RSDS
  • Sudeck's Atrophy
  • Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

Disorder Subdivisions

  • None

General Discussion

Reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome (RSDS), also known as complex regional pain syndrome, is a rare disorder of the sympathetic nervous system that is characterized by chronic, severe pain. The sympathetic nervous system is that part of the autonomic nervous system that regulates involuntary functions of the body such as increasing heart rate, constricting blood vessels, and increasing blood pressure. Excessive or abnormal responses of portions of the sympathetic nervous system are thought to be responsible for the pain associated with reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome.

The symptoms of reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome typically begin with burning pain, especially in an arm, finger(s), palm of the hand(s), and/or shoulder(s). In some individuals, RSDS may occur in one or both legs or it may be localized to one knee or hip. Frequently, RSDS may be misdiagnosed as a painful nerve injury. The skin over the affected area(s) may become swollen (edema) and inflamed. Affected skin may be extremely sensitive to touch and to hot or cold temperatures (cutaneous hypersensitivity). The affected limb(s) may perspire excessively and be warm to the touch (vasomotor instability). The exact cause of RSDS is not fully understood, although it may be associated with injury to the nerves, trauma, surgery, atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, infection, or radiation therapy.


Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome Association of America
PO Box 502
99 Cherry Street
Milford, CT 06460
Tel: (203)877-3790
Fax: (203)882-8362
Tel: (877)662-7737

American Chronic Pain Association
P.O. Box 850
Rocklin, CA 95677
Tel: 9166320922
Fax: 9166323208
Tel: 8005333231

Arthritis Foundation
1330 West Peachtree Street
Atlanta, GA 30309
Tel: 4048727100
Fax: 4048720457
Tel: 8005684045

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)
31 Center Drive
Bethesda, MD 20892-2540
Tel: (301)496-5751
Fax: (301)402-2186
Tel: (800)352-9424

American Pain Society
4700 West Lake Avenue
Glenview, IL 60025-1485
Tel: (847)375-4715
Fax: (847)375-4777

Worldwide Congress on Pain
Web Site on the Internet
c/o Dannemiller Memorial Educational Foundation
12500 Network Blvd.
Suite 101
San Antonio, TX 78249-3302
Fax: (210)641-8329
Tel: (800)328-2308

American RSDHope
P.O. Box 875
Harrison, ME 04040-0875
Tel: 2075834589
Fax: 2075834978

International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP)
909 NE 43rd Street
Suite 306
Seattle, WA 98105-6020
Tel: (206)547-6409
Fax: (206)547-1703

Vasculitis of the Central Nervous System

Tel: (770)978-5636

MUMS (Mothers United for Moral Support, Inc) National Parent-to-Parent Network
150 Custer Court
Green Bay, WI 54301-1243
Tel: 9203365333
Fax: 9203390995
Tel: 8773365333

PARC: Promoting Awareness of RSD/CRPS in Canada
PO Box 210726 St. Catherines
Ontario, L2M 7X2
Tel: 905-934-0261

Irish Chronic Pain Association
Carmichael Centre for Voluntary Groups
Coleraine House, Coleraine St.
Dublin, 7
Tel: +3531 8047567

American Pain Foundation
201 North Charles Street
Suite 710
Baltimore, MD 21201
Tel: (410)783-7292
Fax: (410)385-1832
Tel: (888)615-7246

Mid Carpal Instability/Palmar Midcarpal Instability & Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy/Complex Regional Pain Syndrome 1&2 Suffers UK
8 Archer House
Phillipp Street
London, N1 5NY
UK, England
Tel: 020-7684-1668
Fax: 020-7684-1668
Email: Scott_AJReynolds@BTInternet.Com

For a Complete Report

This is an abstract of a report from the National Organization for Rare Disorders, Inc. ® (NORD). A copy of the complete report can be obtained for a small fee by visiting the NORD website. The complete report contains additional information including symptoms, causes, affected population, related disorders, standard and investigational treatments (if available), and references from medical literature. For a full-text version of this topic, see

The information provided in this report is not intended for diagnostic purposes. It is provided for informational purposes only. NORD recommends that affected individuals seek the advice or counsel of their own personal physicians.

It is possible that the title of this topic is not the name you selected. Please check the Synonyms listing to find the alternate name(s) and Disorder Subdivision(s) covered by this report.

This disease entry is based upon medical information available through the date at the end of the topic. Since NORD's resources are limited, it is not possible to keep every entry in the Rare Disease Database completely current and accurate. Please check with the agencies listed in the Resources section for the most current information about this disorder.

For additional information and assistance about rare disorders, please contact the National Organization for Rare Disorders at P.O. Box 1968, Danbury, CT 06813-1968; phone (203) 744-0100; web site or email

Last Updated: 8/17/2007
Copyright 1986, 1987, 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2000, 2004, 2007National Organization for Rare Disorders, Inc.

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