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Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

Definition

CRPS is a chronic progressive disease characterized by severe pain, swelling and changes in the skin.

Symptoms of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

The following are some of the symptoms of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome:

  • The symptoms are manifested near the site of an injury, which is usually minor.
  • The most common symptoms overall are burning and electrical sensations, described to be like "shooting pain."
  • muscle spasms, local swelling, abnormally increased sweating, changes in skin temperature (usually hot but sometimes cold) and color (bright red or a reddish violet), softening and thinning of bones, joint tenderness or stiffness, and/or restricted or painful movement.

The pain may be heightened by emotional or physical stress. Patients are likely to have one of the three following types of disease progression:
  • Stage one is characterized by severe, burning pain at the site of the injury. Muscle spasm, joint stiffness, restricted mobility, rapid hair and nail growth, and vasospasm. The vasospasm is that which causes the changes in the color and temperature of the skin.
  • Stage two is characterized by more intense pain. Swelling spreads, hair growth diminishes, nails become cracked, brittle, grooved, and spotty, osteoporosis becomes severe and diffuse, joints thicken, and muscles atrophy.
  • Stage three is characterized by irreversible changes in the skin and bones, while the pain becomes unyielding and may involve the entire limb. There is marked muscle atrophy, severely limited mobility of the affected area, and flexor tendon contractions (contractions of the muscles and tendons that flex the joints). Occasionally the limb is displaced from its normal position, and marked bone softening and thinning is more dispersed.


Types of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

CRPS 1 is a chronic nerve disorder that occurs most often in the arms or legs after a minor injury. Type I, as reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD), Sudeck's atrophy, reflex neurovascular dystrophy (RND) or algoneurodystrophy, does not have demonstrable nerve lesions.

CRPS 2 is caused by an injury to the nerve. Type II, known as causalgia, has evidence of obvious nerve damage.

Cause of Regional Pain Syndrome

Unknown
Injury
Surgery

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