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Pain from Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Keep You From Working? Disability Benefits Can Provide Relief for Those With Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy


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12/28/2015
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If you were diagnosed with Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, you understand that the pain and damage caused by the condition can make it difficult or impossible to keep your job. This can lead to financial and emotional strain as you struggle to be able to support yourself. Fortunately for RSD sufferers, Social Security disability benefits may provide much-needed financial relief.

What Is Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy?

People with Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy, or RSD, experience burning pain and abnormalities in the sensory, motor, and autonomic nervous systems. Most people develop RSD after suffering a trauma to a joint or a limb, such as through an injury or after surgery. Other conditions may also trigger RSD, including:

  • Heart disease
  • Stroke
  • Degenerative arthritis
  • Nerve entrapment
  • Shingles
  • Breast cancer
  • Barbiturates
  • Drugs used to treat tuberculosis

In some cases, RSD can occur spontaneously without an obvious cause. The condition is also sometimes referred to as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Type I, shoulder-hand syndrome, causalgia, and Sudeck’s atrophy.

Common Symptoms of Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy

When a person develops RSD, many possible symptoms may occur. These symptoms include the following:

  1. Bone pain
  2. Muscle pain
  3. Muscle spasms
  4. Discolored or thinning skin
  5. Intense skin sensitivity
  6. Burning sensations in the skin
  7. Increased perspiration
  8. Swelling of the joints
  9. Stiffening of the joints

The pain and swelling associated with the condition tend to get worse over time and spread to other parts of the limb, from the limb to the other side of the body, or to other unconnected areas of the body. Symptoms also tend to get progressively worse over time.

Stages of Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy

People with RSD tend to experience symptoms in stages. In stage one, symptoms tend to include burning, flushing, blanching, sweating, swelling, pain, and tenderness. Doctors can identify stage-one RSD by ordering x-rays which may show patchy bone thinning. In stage two, a person may show early skin changes such as shininess and thickening. This is often accompanied by persistent pain. The swelling and flushing tends to decrease, however. In the third stage of RSD, a person may experience a loss of motion and function of the affected area. In addition, sufferers often have scarring and thinning of the lower layers of skin. If an x-ray is ordered, the images often reveal signs of osteoporosis.

How Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Is Diagnosed

Obtaining a diagnosis of RSD is an important step for qualifying for Social Security disability benefits. The first part of diagnosing the condition involves a physical exam conducted by a licensed physician. The doctor will ask if you have recently injured yourself. He or she will also gather as much information as possible about the injury. Your doctor will evaluate whether or not you are experiencing pain that is disproportionate to the injury you suffered as well as whether there is swelling or excessive accumulation of fluid in your tissues. The doctor will also look for abnormal sweat gland activity near the site of pain. Your physician may also order a neurological exam to check for severe pain as a response to a mild stimulus. Finally, tests may be ordered to rule out other conditions that have similar symptoms.

Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy and Social Security Disability Benefits

Fortunately for sufferers, RSD may qualify you for disability benefits. Obtaining disability benefits can provide much-needed financial relief when the condition makes it impossible to work. First, you must show that you have objective evidence that you suffer from RSD. This means that your doctor must document physical findings in addition to your subjective complaints of the pain caused by the condition. For example, your doctor may document swelling, changes in skin color, changes in skin temperature or texture, changes in the amount of sweat you produce, abnormal hair or nail growth, or documented osteoporosis. In addition, you must show that you are no longer able to work as a result of the RSD. The Social Security Administration will first look at whether you can perform your old job. If you cannot, the Social Security Administration will also determine whether or not there is any other job that you are capable of doing. If you cannot, you may qualify for disability benefits.

Obtaining Social Security disability benefits is crucial for many people suffering from a condition such as RSD. To maximize your chances for obtaining the benefits you deserve, we encourage you to contact us today for a free consultation at 888-904-6847.



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John L. Keefe
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Founding Attorney of Keefe Disability Law

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