Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a condition that causes chronic pain. CRPS typically occurs after the patient experiences trauma or injury to a limb such as an arm, leg, hand, or foot. The primary symptoms of CRPS involve pain. Symptoms of CRPS may also include psychological issues and changes in the skin and affected limb.
Pain Symptoms of CRPS
Pain from CRPS typically varies depending on the severity and duration of the condition. In many cases, CRPS pain may be constant and debilitating. The pain symptoms of CRPS typically worsen as time passes,
as opposed to improving. Pain symptoms of CRPS may be described as a sharp, burning sensation or “pins and needles.” Pain symptoms of CRPS may also cause the affected limb to feel swollen. This may cause the affected area to feel constricted, as if it is being squeezed.
CRPS pain is known to spread throughout an entire limb, even if the injury occurred in a smaller and more localized location. For example, a patient may experience symptoms of CRPS in his entire leg, even though the initial injury only involved the ankle. Pain symptoms of CRPS may be triggered very easily. Some patients report extreme pain after a slight bump, touch, or temperature change.
The following medical terms may be used to describe pain symptoms of CRPS:
• Allodynia. Allodynia is the sensation of pain from a stimulus which is typically not painful, such
as a light touch or clothing brushing against the skin.
• Hyperalgesia. Hyperalgesia is a term used to describe severe sensitivity to pain.
Skin Symptoms of CRPS
Other symptoms of CRPS may be present in the patient’s skin. Patients most notably experience temperature or color changes. These changes are typically caused by issues with proper blood flow in the affected limb.
The skin of the affected area may change colors. It may appear reddish, bluish, or purplish. Paleness or blotchiness may also occur. Additionally, the temperature of the skin in the affected area may change. The affected area may become hotter or colder than non-affected areas, such as the opposite limb. The temperature of the affected CRPS area may continue to fluctuate.
Rashes and Eczema
Symptoms of CRPS include the development of skin conditions such as rashes and eczema. Eczema is a category of dermatitis conditions. Eczema is characterized by redness, swelling, and inflammation of the skin. Some patients experience itching. If the skin blisters, bleeding or oozing may occur. The skin may also become dry, scaly, crusty, or shiny.
Psychological Symptoms of CRPSCRPS patients may experience psychological symptoms such as:
• Lack of confidence
• Difficulty relaxing
• Inability to cope with the condition
• Difficulty receiving or accepting emotional support from others
Other Symptoms of CRPS
Symptoms of CRPS can affect the growth of the patient’s hair or nails in the affected area. Some patients experience changes in hair and nail growth. Some patients experience an increase in hair and nail growth, followed by a marked decrease. Adversely, nail symptoms of CRPS may cause nails in the affected area to become brittle. This may cause the nails to break or crumble easily.
Patients may experience other symptoms of CRPS, such as changes in the immune system or motor system. Symptoms of CRPS may cause excessive sweating. Patients may also experience fatigue or the occurrence of migraine headaches.
Symptoms of CRPS may include immune reactions, including:
• Pain in the joints of the affected limb
• Redness and edema, or swelling
• Frequent development of infections
Symptoms of CRPS may affect the patient’s motor system, causing:
• Loss of fine muscle control in affected areas
• Stiffness and increased muscle tone
• Difficulty moving due to pain or swelling
• Weakness in the muscles or joints
• Muscle spasms, jerking, tremors, and other abnormal movement
• Dystonia, or fixed abnormal postures
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