Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a chronic pain disorder. It typically affects a patient’s limb, such as an arm or a leg. Medical professionals diagnose and track CRPS based on four primary stages of the condition. However, it can be difficult to track stages. Not every CRPS patient exhibits the same symptoms or progresses sequentially through each stage.
Stage one of CRPS is often referred to as the “acute stage.” This stage is estimated to last roughly one to three months. During stage one of CRPS, the patient typically begins to notice preliminary changes in the affected area. As suggested by the name of the condition, the patient will most notably experience pain. Patients may also experience symptoms that affect the skin, muscles, and bones of the affected area.
CRPS Stage One Pain
In a number of cases, stage one of CRPS involves more localized pain as opposed to widespread pain throughout the entire limb. For example, a patient may experience chronic pain in one ankle. As the CRPS progresses, the pain will often spread throughout the affected limb.
CRPS pain is intense and chronic, or persisting. CRPS pain may also be described as a sharp burning, aching, or tingling sensation, similar to “pins and needles.” Often, CRPS pain will heighten easily. A patient may experience a severe increase in pain after a seemingly small stimulus, such as a light touch or breeze blowing on the affected area.
Stage One Skin Symptoms
CRPS may cause changes in circulation of the affected limb. Most notably, blood vessels may be constricted or obstructed. This can lead to changes in the skin of the affected area. The skin often becomes dry, thin, and shiny in appearance. It may also appear blotchy, with visible streaks or spots.
The skin may begin to change colors. CRPS patients report skin color changes to bluish, purplish, reddish,or whitish discoloration. The temperature of the limb may also change in comparison to non-affected
limbs. Patients may notice that the CRPS-affected area is hotter or colder than other limbs. The temperature may continue to fluctuate.
Muscular and Bone Symptoms
Additionally, the patient may begin to experience muscle spasms in the affected area. Muscle spasms occur when the affected muscles involuntarily and tightly contract. These spasms can produce severe pain. Patients may also experience stiffness in the joints of the affected area. This may make it difficult orexceptionally painful for the patient to move the affected limb.
Bone changes may be visible through X-ray, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), or other bone scans. Stage one of CRPS is characterized by excessive bone resorption. Bone resorption is a normal process during which bones are broken down. As a result, calcium is released into the bloodstream. Excessive bone resorption may result in complications that weaken of the bone. This can lead to bone strength conditions such as osteoporosis.
Other Stage One Symptoms
CRPS patients often experience changes in nail and hair growth of the affected area. During stage one, the nail and hair may grow more quickly than in other areas of the body. If CRPS is present in a patient’s left arm, the patient may notice that the hair and nails of the left arm are longer than those of the right arm. The affected area may also become swollen. A number of CRPS patients report that the CRPSaffected area begins to sweat excessively.
CRPS Stage One Prognosis
Stage one of CRPS is considered the most important stage for a positive CRPS outcome. The sooner CRPS is diagnosed, the more easily the condition can be treated. There is currently no distinct cure for CRPS. However, patients who receive proper diagnosis in stage one of CRPS can begin treatment before the condition progresses. In comparison to other stages, aggressive treatment during stage one of CRPS is most likely to result in reversal or remission of the condition.
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