There is often a lot of confusion among the medical community about the terminology and other details regarding Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) and Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome (RSD or RSDS). While these two conditions are considered separate from each other there are some doctors that do not realize this.
Physicians that are behind on the subject will mistakenly inform their patients that these terms describe the same condition. There are also other physicians that do not realize the actual differences between the two conditions. The misinformation has caused problems for many patients. While it is true that these two conditions are uniquely connected to each other, they are not actually considered the same disease.
Change in Terminology
The terminologies involving CRPS Type 1 and 2 and RSD were changed in 1993 by the International Association of the study of Pain (IASP). The condition Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome was changed to Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. For a short time, the names were used interchangeably without issue.
In 1994, the IASP decided to reclassify CRPS as having two differentiations, Type 1 and Type 2. While CRPS Type 1 still refers to RSD, CRPS Type 2 would now refer to a condition formerly known as Causalgia. Causalgia is characteristically different from RSD since it is a result of a major nerve injury. Nerve injuries from CRPS Type 1 are only minor injuries. So the confusion arises from the two types of CRPS, since there are distinctions between CRPS Type 1 and Type 2.
The Difference between CRPS Type 1 and Type 2
CRPS Type 1 is also known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome, or RSDS/classic RSD. Symptoms from this condition involve injuries to soft tissues such as sprains, strains, burns, and tears. The symptoms also involve problems from inflammation such as bursitis, arthritis, and tendonitis. The “itis” suffix is the distinction of an inflammatory problem.
CRPS Type 1 can also include nerve injuries but only minor nerve injuries. This is the main difference between CRPS Type 1 and Type2. CRPS Type 2 involves damage of a major nerve. Type 2 of CRPS was also known as Causalgia. The term Causalgia implicates the intense pain associated with this type of the condition. The suffix “algia” is latin for pain. In fact, CRPS Type 2 is considered one of the most painful long-term medical conditions for a person to have. CRPS Type 2 scores 42 out of 50 on the McGill pain scale and is comparable to amputation and child birth in terms of pain severity.
CRPS Type 1/Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Characteristics
The onset from RSD can be rapid or gradual. The condition does not always present a specific set of
symptoms. Symptoms can affect one or both sides of the body, this is referred to as a bilateral condition.
Nearly half of patients with RSD are affected in both sides of the body. Symptoms can be acute, dystrophic, and atrophic. These are the different stages of the condition.
Acute symptoms: last 3 to 6 months from onset and are characterized by burning, flushing, sweating, blanching, swelling, tenderness, and pain. At this stage, x-rays can show a patchy pattern of bone tissue thinning away.
Dystrophic symptoms: also can last 3 to 6 months and are characterized by changes of the skin. Common symptoms are thickened, shiny skin and contracture with chronic pain. The dystrophic stage is also characterized by diminished swelling and flushing.
Atrophic symptoms: can be much more long-term and possibly permanent. This stage is characterized by loss of motion and function in the affected area, usually a hand or foot, from contracture.
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(2011): 298-307. Web. 2 Aug. 2013. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3193642/