Complex regional pain syndrome, or CRPS, is a condition characterized by chronic pain in the sufferer. This pain is usually found in a leg or an arm, and typically comes about after a person experiences a stroke or heart attack, or after a surgery or some kind of injury. The pain that results from this development is more than the typical person would feel after these events occurring. The cause of CRPS is not entirely understood at this time.
If you believe you suffer from CRPS, you should consult with a physician and discuss your options.
What are Symptoms of CRPS?
CRPS can present in many different ways, and each person will experience different things. The consistent part is that this pain is chronic and results from one of the causes listed above. Some symptoms may include:
- Ongoing, continuous pain, usually burning or throbbing, and typically in the leg, foot, arm or hand
- Skin color changes, including turning red, blue or white and blotchy
- The pained area swells
- A sensitivity to cold temperatures, or to touch
When Should You Visit a Doctor?
If you think you may have complex regional pain syndrome, it can only help to visit a doctor. If you are experiencing a severe pain constantly, and makes moving the limb where that pain comes from difficult or impossible to move, or touch is intolerable, you should speak with a medical professional to rule out options. Early treatment of CRPS is the most beneficial.
What Causes CRPS?
All we know definitively is that CRPS exists, as a series of symptoms. The cause is difficult to determine, especially since it results from such a wide range of injuries or illnesses. We do know that CRPS has two different types. These types have very similar symptoms, but the causes seem to be of different types:
- CRPS Type 1 is also calls reflex sympathetic dystrophy, or RSD. This is the type of CRPS that happens after an injury or illness that did not obviously damage the nerves in the limb where the chronic pain is felt. Type one is most common, affecting approximately 90 percent of people who have CRPS
- CRPS Type 2 is the least common type, resulting from clear and obvious damage to a nerve or nerves. The nerves then respond with disproportionate and constant pain
How is CRPS Treated?
While treatment options for CRPS can vary, like many other chronic pain conditions, there are the typical medications designed to not only target pain, but the source of it, as well as some of the resulting conditions, such as bone loss. Some CRPS treatments include:
- Pain relievers, antidepressants and anticonvulsants may be prescribed to either treat general pain or to target the nerves that are believed to be responsible for the pain
- Physical therapy may be used gently to exercise the limbs where the pain is felt to help keep the limbs flexible and mobile
- Nerve-blocking medication may be used to attempt to block the pain-causing nerves directly