Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) is a rare and chronic condition that typically affects the legs or arms of a person. When diagnosing CRPS, there are two differentiations called CRPS Type 1 and CRPS Type 2. CRPS Type 1 is also known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy (RDS/RSDS) and CRPS Type 2 is sometimes called Causalgia. The main difference between the diagnosis of CRPS Type 1 and CRPS Type 2 is whether or not the condition is correlated with a nerve injury. The condition is designated as CRPS Type 2 only when following a nerve injury.
Diagnosing CRPS can be done in several different ways. For instance, the likeliest medical professional to be capable of diagnosing CRPS is a neurologist. However, a general physician is also a likely choice for diagnosing CRPS. An important point to note is if the doctor is educated about CRPS and diagnosing CRPS.
Procedures for Diagnosing CRPS
A physician is the only the only person qualified for diagnosing CRPS of either type. While diagnosing CRPS, a series of examinations is performed as part of a physical exam. The physician will also need to check the patient’s medical history to both rule out any other possibilities and understand any other risks for the patient.
One of the tests that may be performed when diagnosing CRPS is a bone scan. Before this procedure, the patient is injected with a radioactive substance. This material will allow the health care providers to easily examine a patient’s bones and joints when diagnosing CRPS. When diagnosing CRPS, doctors may also perform tests on the sympathetic nervous system. For example, thermography is a test that measures blood flow and the temperature of a patient’s skin in CRPS affected areas.
When diagnosing CRPS a physician may also perform either an x-ray or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) examination on the patient. X-rays are useful when diagnosing CRPS since mineral loss in the bones is clearly visible when viewed as an x-ray image. MRIs are able to further provide information for diagnosing CRPS by providing information to doctors about the bones and joints, as well as soft tissues, organs and other internal structures of the body.
Symptoms of CRPS and RSD
Not all patients will express the same types of symptoms when diagnosing CRPS because every case of CRPS is unique. Another consideration when diagnosing CRPS is that there are different stages of each type. If the patient is still early in the development of the disease then they are also likely to only exhibit a small amount of symptoms. This can cause added difficulty for physicians when diagnosing CRPS.
Some of the symptoms from CRPS are:
• Long-lasting pain after an injury is healed
• Disproportionate pain to the sustained injury
• Changes in skin color and texture; such as dryness, tightness, redness, or irritation
• Chronic burning pain• Spasms of the blood vessels and muscles
• Side effects to the limbic system; such as, short-term memory difficulty, concentration difficulty,
insomnia, trouble with speech, sensory sensitivity, and depression
After Diagnosing CRPS
The medical community has suggested that diagnosing CRPS and treatment should take place in the first six to twelve months and treatment plans should be aggressive. This is the best course of action for reversing the effects from CRPS. There is no medical consensus on the remission rate of CRPS but most generally think that the odds of remission decrease significantly every month after that initial period. Many health care professionals also believe the most substantial drop in recovery rate occurs after the twelve month point.
Another trend that is generally agreed upon is that younger patients have a better chance of a positive outcome from the condition, although this is not a guarantee. Patients should try not to be discouraged when diagnosing CRPS since there is an average of about 5 to 10 doctors before receiving the correct diagnosis. In some cases, properly diagnosing CRPS may require even more medical attention.
“About CRPS.” Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome Association. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Aug 2013.
“How is CRPS Diagnosed?.” American RSDHope. N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Aug 2013.