Dealing with an injury is hard enough even when it heals normally. But many people will find that they have intense pain even long after an injury has healed—even if it was minor. If you have pain, tingling and numbness, swelling, or sensitivity to touch in an area that was affected by an injury, you might have developed Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD). This is a serious condition that requires medical attention.
One of your first steps if you think you might have RSD should be to speak to a lawyer. RSD can require extensive, ongoing treatment—treatment that may cost far more than the initial injury. It’s important that you receive a complete financial recovery to pay for your medical costs. John Foy & Associates can help you get that recovery. We are among the most experienced accident and injury law firms in Atlanta, and we have a long history of working successfully on RSD cases. Call us at 404-400-4000 and get a free consultation today.
What is Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy?
Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy or RSD is a chronic pain condition that often involves damage to the nerves. Although RSD is the common name, it’s also sometimes called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome or CRPS. These two names refer to the same condition.
It’s important to understand that RSD is not a psychological condition. The pain is not “in your head.” It’s caused by a physical injury and it’s associated with very real impairment to the nerves. There are two types of RSD:
- Type I: This type of RSD is associated with injuries that don’t directly damage the nerves and do not leave ay detectable nerve lesions. However, the nerves are thrown into a state of “dysregulation” or impairment.
- Type II: Sometimes called causalgia, this form of RSD is associated with injuries that cause direct damage to the nerves.
Most people suffering from RSD have Type I, and experience extreme pain even though the nerves were not directly hurt. Over time this pain can develop into other conditions and spread throughout the body. If left untreated it can cause serious disability.
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What causes RSD/CRPS?
RSD usually develops following some kind of injury. It’s commonly caused by a car, motorcycle or bicycle accident, but can also follow an accident at work or any kind of injury. It can also be caused by surgery or anything that might irritate the nerves such as carpal tunnel, stroke, shingles or severe arthritis.
Exactly how these injuries lead to RSD is not well understood. Doctors do not have a clear explanation for why some individuals, or some injuries, develop RSD and others do not. The most likely explanation is that the injury irritates or excites the nearby nerves, causing them to send incorrect pain signals to the brain and surrounding tissue. The body then responds to the perceived “pain” with swelling and sensitivity as if it is real damage. The swelling only puts more pressure on the nerves, potentially creating a feedback loop that develops into chronic pain.
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What symptoms or effects does RSD have?
Pain is far from the only symptom of RSD. Complete symptoms may include:
- Reddening or paling of the affected area, especially at the beginning stage
- Swelling and tenderness
- Thinning of the bones in the affected area, which can lead to osteoporosis
- Pain that starts mild or intermittent but becomes serious and persistent
- Changes to the skin including areas of hard, thick shiny skin
- Loss of motion or function or the affected area
These symptoms typically begin in the area affected by the initial injury, usually just one limb or one hand or foot. As time goes on they may spread. You may experience flare ups of pain in other parts of the body or a gradual spreading of pain. With time the pain and loss of function can become crippling.
Can RSD be cured?
There is no direct cure for RSD. There are a variety of methods used to treat RSD symptoms, which can lead to its remission (getting better). Even individuals who experience remission from RSD may find that it returns over time or with a subsequent injury.
The chance of remission is best when the condition is caught early on. If treatment can begin within the first three months there is a good chance of improving the symptoms and preventing the condition from progressing. If left too long, however, RSD is more likely to become permanent, and can cause irreversible changes to the body. This is why it’s so important to act quickly.
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How is RSD treated?
RSD treatment typically involves two approaches:
- Physical therapy
Of these, physical therapy is shown to have the greatest benefit. The goal of physical therapy is to rehabilitate the area by restoring motion and function, and decreasing its extreme sensitivity. This often delivers results without drugs, though it can also be paired with medication. Specialized therapies are used if the area is too sensitive for traditional physical therapy.
Medication may include pain medicine, anti-inflammatories, or nerve blocking medicines, among others.
Some cases require surgery. In extreme cases, the affected part of the body may be amputated. Even this may or may not provide relief.
Who is liable if I have developed RSD after an injury?
Your RSD is not your fault. If you developed RSD after an accident, then whoever was responsible for the accident is also liable for the RSD. This may have been another driver in a car accident, your employer in a work injury, or the owner of the premises where you fell or otherwise hurt yourself. Legally, anytime an accident happens because of someone else’s negligence, that party is responsible for all of the effects—even very long term ones like RSD.
If you’ve developed RSD after an accident, you need to take action quickly. The insurance company will pressure you to sign off on an early settlement before the extent of your condition is understood. The longer you wait, the harder it is to make your case.
John Foy & Associates can help you. We’ve seen RSD firsthand and we understand the extreme pain and difficulty it causes. We work with some of the best RSD doctors in Georgia and we know how to present your case so that you’re most likely to get the complete financial recovery you need. Call 404-400-4000 and get your free consultation today.