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Lung diseases

Can RSD affect the lungs?

07/26/1999

Question:

I had pneumonia approximately 5 years ago. I have had a chronic cough since which get worse over time. I get set off by any type of smells or odors and wake just about every nite coughing and choking. I also have chronic bronchitis. I also have reflex sympothetic dystrophy (in my foot & legs, bladder & eyes) I have been to just about ever lung doctor & or clinic in my area. After seeing them a few times, they throw up there hands & send me somewhere else. All my test results have either been border line or negative. I have exhuasted everything that has been recommended or that my husband & I have come up with. We believe that the RSD has also attacked my lungs (due to the pneu). The only medicine that seemed to quiet the cough is Morphine Sulfate. Is it possible that the RSD is causing this and what can be done to control it? I`m at my wits end and can`t take much more. Thank you.

Answer:

Reflex sympathetic dystrophy is a complex disorder of unclear etiology that is characterized primarily as pain in the lower extremities, along with vascular and soft tissue changes that may, in severe cases, result in contractures. I am unaware of any clear association between RSD and lung disease. However, there is considerable data to suggest that chronic airways disease, including asthma, may result from (or be exacerbated by) lung infections. The observation that your cough is `set off` by particular exposures makes me suspect that this is the case. Chronic cough, particularly at night, may be caused by many things; the most common etiologies are asthma, gastroesophogeal reflux disease, and sinusitis (post-nasal drip). In addition, your history is somewhat suggestive of a condition called Reactive Airways Disease, or RADS for short. Without more details on what tests you have had done, I can`t really make any better recommendations, but I would certainly spare no effort to find the underlying condition and treat it, rather than suppress the cough with opiates.

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Response by:

Stuart Green, MD
Assistant Professor of Medicine and Pathobiology
College of Medicine
University of Cincinnati