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Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome

Osterhout Berger Daley > Disabling Conditions > Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome

When you’re in pain, it can be difficult to work. Reflex sympathetic dystrophy is a type of disorder that can make it increasingly difficult to go to work because the pain and other symptoms make it difficult to concentrate or even move the affected area. Getting the disability benefits necessary to pay bills becomes increasingly important the longer that the person is on the sidelines for work. Anyone who has reflex sympathetic dystrophy or thinks that they have it should look into what they’ll need to gather to win the disability benefits.

What is Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy?

This disorder affects the shoulders, legs, arms and other body parts, making it difficult to work and concentrate. Reflex sympathetic dystrophy is also sometimes called complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), but reflex sympathetic dystrophy is actually just one type of CRPS. Reflex sympathetic dystrophy is also called Type I complex regional pain syndrome, and it’s a type of pain that occurs after injury or illness, such as a broken bone, stroke, heart attack, or other major illness.

This pain shows up after the injury should already be healed, and it is disproportionate to the original injury. This particular type of CRPS is also the type that occurs when there’s tissue damage but not any nerve damage.

The condition is relatively uncommon, affecting fewer than 200,000 people per year. It’s unclear what the exact cause of the condition is, which can also make it difficult to diagnose and treat. The best guess that medical professionals have is that it’s related to the way that the sympathetic nervous system works. Basically, when a person is injured, their sympathetic nervous system turns on so that the injury can heal properly. For someone who has reflex sympathetic dystrophy, their sympathetic nervous system doesn’t go back to normal when the injury is healed, which can cause pain.

It’s slightly more common for women to get this condition than men, and while it’s possible for children to experience reflex sympathetic dystrophy, it happens much more commonly in people between the ages of 30 and 60. Also, symptoms from reflex sympathetic dystrophy can last for years or for the rest of the person’s life, but getting treatment earlier rather than later can help with the long-term prognosis and alleviate symptoms more quickly.

Symptoms of Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy

One of the most common symptoms of reflex sympathetic dystrophy is a feeling of pain around the area that was injured, which is usually in the arms, legs, shoulders, or hips. Additionally, there are several types of pain that people with reflex sympathetic dystrophy describe experiencing, such as throbbing, aching, burning, cold, or deep pain. Some people also have more sensitive skin, experiencing pain with regular activities that wouldn’t normally cause pain, such as taking a shower.

Some people might also have swelling in the areas affected by pain. Some other symptoms that people can experience that aren’t related to pain include mottled skin that is blue, white, or red, and there might also be a difference in skin texture, hair growth, or nail growth. For instance, one type of change in skin texture that people with reflex sympathetic dystrophy experience is thin and shiny skin. Stiff joints, muscle weakness, and muscle spasms are also possible, and some people might have difficulties moving the affected area. There are also some people who experience excessive sweating in certain areas of the body.

Another symptom that others can observe is temperature differences from one extremity to another. For instance, some people with reflex sympathetic dystrophy in their forearm will have temperature differences compared to the opposite forearm even when each arm is dressed the same and placed in the same conditions.

Finally, some people will experience mood changes because of the pain and their inability to control it. For instance, some people might experience depression and anxiety.

Treatments for Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy

Although there isn’t anything that can directly treat the cause of the syndrome, there are things that doctors can prescribe to alleviate some of the symptoms. For instance, doctors might decide to prescribe antidepressants if the person is experiencing depression because of their inability to control the pain.

Lidocaine is an anesthetic cream that might also be prescribed to help soothe the pain in the affected area. Other medicines that can help control the pain associated with the syndrome include NSAIDs, such as naproxen sodium, ibuprofen, and aspirin, which can also help alleviate inflammation. In cases where the pain is severe, some people might also receive nerve-blocking injections to alleviate the pain.

Since osteoporosis in the affected area is a possibility, some doctors might prescribe a nasal spray that can treat bone loss in the affected area. And there are corticosteroids that can help treat any swelling. In cases where the pain is very severe, a doctor might prescribe opioids to ease the pain.

As a form of ongoing treatment, doctors can also ask patients to do some types of self-care. For instance, they might decide that they want them to use a heating pad on the affected region to soothe muscles and joints.

Acupuncture, physical therapy, and biofeedback therapy are all treatments that doctors can prescribe to help reduce pain. Some of these treatments can also be used to help strengthen the muscles so that the area is better supported.

Disability Benefits for Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy

Anyone who is experiencing pain that’s caused by reflex sympathetic dystrophy and can’t work as a result should look into what information they need to gather to make a case for getting disability benefits through the SSA.

To gain disability benefits for this condition, there must be physical symptoms that a doctor can see in addition to the subjective pain signals that the applicant is feeling. For instance, one example of an objective symptom that someone with reflex sympathetic dystrophy might experience is swelling, which a doctor can verifiably see. Some other changes that a doctor could verify is changes in skin color and texture, hair and nail growth, excess sweating, and osteoporosis.

There isn’t a listing for reflex sympathetic dystrophy in the Blue Book that the Social Security Administration puts out to determine who is eligible for benefits, so people who are seeking benefits will need to make a case for one of the symptoms associated with the condition. One way to do this is to take a residual functional capacity test, which will help the SSA determine whether or not there are jobs available that the applicant can do. The applicant’s doctor will put together a list of activities that the patient is no longer able to do; then, the SSA will look at the jobs that the applicant has done in the past to determine whether or not they’re capable of doing any of the jobs that they’ve done in the past.

How We Can Help

There are several ways in which the team at Osterhout Berger Daley can help you receive the benefit you deserve. We help individuals who need to…

If you are facing one of these situations due to Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome, please do not hesitate in reaching out. Our team of experienced attorneys are here to help, and your consultation is free.

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