Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) is a chronic pain condition that most often affects a person’s limbs. The typical areas that CRPS can affect are the arms, legs, hands, or feet. The condition usually
occurs after some kind of injury or trauma to the area. CRPS is thought to be the result of damage or malfunction of central or peripheral nervous system.
There are two forms CRPS and they are referred to as CRPS Type 1 and CRPS Type 2. CRPS Type 1 is also known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome (RSDS). However, most clinicians will refer to the condition as CRPS Type 1. Both conditions are characterized by excessive or prolonged pain and dramatic or mild changes in skin tone, temperature, or swelling in the area.
Causes of CRPS Type 1
The exact causes of specific cases of CRPS Type 1 may be unknown but the condition usually results from an injury of some kind the affected limb. CRPS Type 1 may be in some way related to genetics so a family history of CRPS Type 1 may predispose a patient to developing the condition. CRPS Type 1 is also more likely to occur in individuals with some kind of nervous system dysfunction.
Fractures or sprains are the injuries most likely to cause CRPS Type 1. For example, if a cast is put too tight around a broken limb the patient may develop CRPS Type 1. A sprain, or stretch/tear in a ligament, can also lead to CRPS Type 1. Since ligaments are the tissues that connects bones to one another, this can also lead to other medical complications, as well. Other risks for CRPS Type 1 are surgery and preexisting medical conditions such as heart attack, stroke, infection, and cancer.
Signs and Symptoms of CRPS Type 1
The signs and symptoms from CRPS Type 1 are different for each person. The symptoms range from mild to severe and can occur in stages. CRPS Type 1 can also spread to an uninjured limb. The most prevalent symptom of CRPS Type 1 is pain. Pain from CRPS Type 1 is unusually severe. The pain from CRPS Type 1 may continue after the injury has healed. Pain may be noticeable for no reason; this is a symptom of either hyperalgesia or allodynia. These conditions cause an excessive amount of pain with little or no stimulus.
Another symptom of CRPS Type 1 is changes in skin and tissues. The injured limb of a patient with CRPS Type 1 may swell or sweat. Temperature changes and altered skin tone may also become evident. For
example, a patient’s skin may be warm and pink and quickly change to cold and blue. The skin may become thin and the patient may be prone to infections and sores. Symptoms of CRPS Type 1 may also affect muscles, joints, nails, and hair.
Diagnosis and Treatment of CRPS Type 1
Since the symptoms from CRPS Type 1 can be similar to other conditions, there can be a high amount of difficulty diagnosing the condition. The physician will question the patient about signs and symptoms and the patient’s health history. For example, recent injuries and surgeries are indicators that a person may have a case of CRPS Type 1. The physician will also check movement of the injured limb to compare to the uninjured limb. There is no specific test or treatment for CRPS Type 1, but numerous tests and treatments are used when managing the condition.
CRPS Type 1 can be diagnosed with the help of:
• Blood tests
• Imaging tests
• Bone scanning
• Skin temperature and sweat tests
• Blood flow testing
• Nerve conduction tests
CRPS Type 1 can be treated using:
• Pain medications
• Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications (NSAIDS)
• Anti-seizure medications
• Biophosphonates and calcitonin
• Calcium channel blockers
• Physical therapy
• Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation
• Spinal cord stimulation
“Complex regional pain syndrome.” PubMed. (2012): n. page. Web. 3 Aug. 2013.
“Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Fact Sheet.” National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
N.p., 12 Jul 2013. Web. 3 Aug 2013.