Complex regional pain syndrome, or CRPS, is a chronic pain condition that typically affects a patient’s limbs, such as the arms or legs. CRPS typically occurs after trauma or injury to the affected area. However, the pain associated with CRPS is often disproportionate to the cause. CRPS patients often experience severe and debilitating pain that worsens with time.
What Is CRPS?
The name “complex regional pain syndrome” indicates that the condition is:
• Complex. A number of medical issues are associated with CRPS and diagnosed patients. CRPS usually affects a number of biological systems in the body. The multi-faceted nature of the condition contributes to its complexity.
• Regional. In the majority of cases, CRPS symptoms are localized in a particular region of the patient’s body. Common areas affected by CRPS are legs, feet, arms, and hands. In some cases, the pain may spread to another limb.
• Pain. The primary symptom of CRPS is severe and often debilitating pain. Many patients experience over-sensitivity, which can trigger intense pain after light stimuli such as a soft touch. In a number of cases, CRPS pain prevents patients from moving the affected limb unless necessary.
• Syndrome. By definition, a syndrome is a collection of symptoms that occur together. In many cases, the term syndrome indicates that the exact condition and its causes are not entirely known. However, a pattern of symptoms has been established.
Types of CRPS
There are two main types of CRPS, referred to as Type I and Type II. CRPS Type I is also known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD). However, this term is becoming phased out. CRPS Type I involves injuries to the soft tissue of the affected area. These soft tissue injuries can include sprains, burns, tears, and strains. Also included are a number of medical conditions that cause inflammation of body parts, such as arthritis, bursitis, and tendonitis. CRPS Type I may or may not involve minor injury to nerves.
CRPS Type II involves damage to at least one major nerve. CRPS Type II was also referred to as causalgia, although this term is rarely still used. As opposed to CRPS Type I, the cause of CRPS Type II is a nerve injury that has been clearly defined. The cause of CRPS Type I may not be known during diagnosis of the condition.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) compiled data on the occurrence of RSD in patients with nerve injury and paralysis. The research found that RSD develops in roughly 12-to-21 percent of patients who experienced hemiplegia. Hemiplegia is a form of paralysis that affects one side of the patient’s body.
NINDS also states that RSD occurs as a complication in roughly two-to-five percent of patients who experienced peripheral nerve injury. The peripheral nerves connect the spinal cord and brain to other parts of the body, including the skin and muscles.
It is believed that millions of Americans may experience the debilitating symptoms of CRPS. Research suggests that CRPS can occur in virtually any age, sex, and demographic. However, CRPS may most commonly occur within individuals aged 40 to 60.
Coping with CRPS – More About CRPS
Due to the extreme and lasting pain associated with CRPS, patients may find it difficult to cope with the condition. In addition to physical side effects, emotional side effects may also occur. Many CRPS patients develop depression, insomnia, irritability, and anxiety. Poor memory and concentration may also affect the patient’s ability to carry out daily functions such as work.
Since there is no single cure for CRPS, patients are recommended to seek an ongoing support system to cope with the physical, mental, and emotional complications from CRPS. A number of support groups are available for patients. Additionally, the patient may wish to seek a psychologist. If the patient believes that his or her CRPS condition was caused by medical negligence, he or she should seek an experienced CRPS attorney immediately.
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