Can RSD Cause High Blood Pressure?

By Contributing Writer

  • Overview

    Can RSD Cause High Blood Pressure?
    Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD) is a neurological disorder that gives new meaning to the word pain. There are many things that we do not understand about RSD but one thing is clear: it hurts! Treating nerve pain is challenging and not every patient responds the same. Many physicians prescribe massive doses of Gabapentin. However for many patients, Gabapentin does not work. Common side effects of this popular nerve medication include extreme daytime sleepiness, depression, dizziness, vision problems and mood swings. Years after they have discontinued the medication, some patients have had episodes of uncontrollable rage, depression and suicidal thoughts. It is important that you have a tailored medical plan that addresses your emotional and physical needs. RSD is a chronic condition that, as of yet, has no cure. Patients dream of the day when a break though in research will put an end to their intense suffering. If you have been diagnosed with RSD, stay informed about this frustrating medical condition.
  • Symptoms

    Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy is also known as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. RSD can begin in an arm, finger, toe, palm of the hand, shoulder, leg, or foot. RSD can occur after an injury such as a sprain, scrape, or broken bone. In some cases, a cause can not be found. It presents with severe, agonizing pain that can burn. This burning sensation can make even the slightest touch unbearable. RSD can cause the limb to sweat profusely. There may be changes in color of the affected limb and abnormal swelling. You may notice that your limb will be mottled (unusual color pattern). The affected area may appear white bluish, dark red, or even slightly purple. The limb can feel extremely cold even if you attempt to warm it up with a glove or a sock. Your limb will constantly ache. Each person will experience RSD differently and severity in symptoms may vary. This is one of the reasons physicians have a very hard time recognizing this syndrome and diagnosing it. If you suspect RSD it is crucial that a diagnosis is made because left untreated, it can spread. In some patients, RSD can affect the entire body.
  • Treatment Options

    There are many medications and treatment options that can help ease your symptoms. You may need to try different medications such as antidepressants, muscle relaxants, and narcotics to find the best one for you. Know that it can be difficult to get a prescription for narcotic medication because many physicians fear that their patient will have addiction problems. The reality is that it is nearly impossible to become addicted to narcotic medication if they are taken as directed. Unfortunately there is a stigma that patients who take opiate medication are using them for recreational purposes. Awareness must be raised to break this stigma. There are too many RSD patients that are under treated because their physician does not understand the extent of their suffering. For some patients, medications such as hydrocodone, morphine and oxycodone enable them to lead as normal a life as possible because it alleviates the intense pain.


  • The Link Between Blood Pressure and RSD

    Pain is stressful to the body and one way that it reacts is to increase your blood pressure. RSD is believed to be a dysfunction of the sympathetic system. The sympathetic system is responsible for regulating your heart beat, blood pressure, body temperature, and respiration. Some patients need medication to control their blood pressure because RSD may keep it constantly elevated. You may have spikes in blood pressure, palpitations, and rapid heart beat especially during pain flare-ups. Know that any type of chronic pain can increase your risk of high blood pressure. Monitor your blood pressure to prevent serious complications.
  • Helpful Advice

    Accept that you will have to relearn tasks so as not to aggravate the pain. It may take longer to do tasks. Don't feel like you are failing. Be grateful that you are able to complete the task eventually. This syndrome may limit the things that you can do. Try and fight these negative feelings by focusing on all the things that you can do. In addition, keep a pain chart in your household and note your level of pain. Use red, green, and yellow circles to indicate the severity of pain. Red means severe pain, yellow means not feeling well, and green means good. This can warn other family members if you are having a bad day. Purchase a rubber ball that is filled with baking powder that you can squeeze. This helps during the moments that you have massive pain.
  • Lessons from the Front Line

    Those that have experience with RSD have some valuable advice for patients that are newly diagnosed. Learn from their lessons. Know that some physicians have very little understanding of RSD and will tell you to live with the pain. You may be told that the symptoms that you are having are all "in your head". Don't listen. Don't suffer in silence. Speak up. You have a right not to be in pain. Ask for the medication that you need. Find a physician that is educated about the syndrome and has experience treating RSD. Another obstacle often encountered is that many people have never heard of RSD. Your friends and family may not believe that you are suffering because you do not look sick. The best thing that you can do is to raise awareness about RSD and educate your loved ones.
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