Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) is a chronic condition involving pain in one of the limbs. This could be an arm or a leg, or even a hand or foot. While there is no real way to know exactly what causes CRPS, many neurology experts believe that it happens because of damage to the peripheral and central nervous system, or some type of malfunction within them. Head injuries, for example, can be a cause in some patients, as could a spinal injury.

The Difference between CRPS I and CRPS II

There are two forms of CRPS- CRPS I and CRPS II. They have the same symptoms and treatments, and there is very little difference between them. However, people diagnosed with CRPS I are those who have no confirmed nerve injuries. Those who do have confirmed nerve injuries are classified as CRPS II. The confirmation of the injury is the only difference. Everything else is the same.

Anyone, regardless of age or gender, can be at risk of developing Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. However, it does seem to be more common in women than in men. The average age of those who suffer from the condition is 40, and it's rare in the elderly. Many teenagers may suffer as well, but it is rare in children who are under 10 years old. It's hard to tell just what causes CRPS. Two people who go through the same type of physical trauma may not both develop CRPS. One will and the other will not, which means a doctor skilled in recognizing it and diagnosing it early is essential.

What are the symptoms of CRPS?

The main component or symptom for sufferers of CRPS is pain. The pain is often prolonged and chronic, and in some cases, it can be quite severe. The pain can feel like a burning sensation, or as though the limb is on "pins and needles." Sometimes, it feels as though someone is squeezing the limb hard enough to cause pain.

Other common symptoms include:

  • Abnormal sweating patterns
  • Changes in hair and nail growth
  • Stiffness in the joints of the affected limb
  • Problems with coordinating movement
  • Changes in skin texture
  • The skin on the affected limb will take on a shiny appearance

Diagnosing CPRS

There is not a single diagnostic test that will determine whether someone has CRPS. It requires expert neurological diagnostic skill and a detailed medical history. Some other conditions can mimic these symptoms, and that makes it more difficult to accurately diagnose. However, even though there is no specific test for CRPS, there are tests for many of the other conditions that have similar symptoms. By running these tests, it is possible to rule out the other conditions and narrow the diagnosis.

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