Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)

9/27/2018 in Medical Conditions

The condition is characterized by persistent burning or aching pain with increased or decreased sweating, swelling, changes to skin color, damage to the skin, hair loss, cracked or thickened nails, muscle wasting and weakness, and/or bone loss.  As a result of pain, use of the affected area is limited which can produce stiff and shortened muscles, limiting range of motion.  CRPS is believed to be caused by damage or malfunction of the peripheral and central nervous systems.

The condition is often diagnosed following a forceful trauma to an arm, for example a crushing injury, fracture or amputation.  However, surgical procedures of the shoulder, carpal tunnel, and Dupuytren’s contracture have been known to manifest Complex Regional Pain Syndrome.   

There are two types of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome:

Type 1 – (used to be called reflex sympathetic dystrophy) refers to injury to tissues other than nerve tissue, for example when a bone is crushed in an accident.  It is thought that 90% of persons with complex regional pain syndrome have Type 1.

Type 2 – (used to be called Causalgia) refers to injury of nerve tissue.

There are several different types of treatment available and every person’s response to treatment is different.  Most treatment is geared toward keeping blood flowing to the painful limb and controlling the pain.  The prognosis of CRPS is highly variable.  Younger persons, children and teenagers have better outcomes, older people can have a good outcome as well.  However, there are some individuals who experience severe pain and disability despite treatment. 

Research has shown that CRPS-related inflammation is caused by the body’s own immune response.  Researchers are working to better understand how CRPS develops, what causes it, how it progresses, and the role of early treatment. 

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