Complex regional pain syndrome, more commonly known as CRPS, is a chronic pain condition that affects one of the limbs (arms, legs, hands, or feet). It typically occurs after an injury or trauma to the limb.
Researchers and professionals believe that CRPS is caused by damage to the peripheral and central nervous systems. The central nervous system is composed of the brain and spinal cord, and the peripheral nervous system involves nerve signaling from the brain and spinal cord to the rest of the body.
CRPS is characterized by prolonged or excessive pain and mild or dramatic changes in skin color, temperature, and swelling in the affected area.
CRPS is classified in two ways, CRPS-I and CRPS-II, both with the same symptoms and treatments. CRPS-II, also known as causalgia, is the term used for patients with confirmed nerve injuries. Individuals without confirmed nerve injury are classified as having CRPS-I, also known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome. Although researchers have recently found evidence of nerve injury in CRPS-I, so the validity of the different forms is being investigated.
CRPS affects both men and women, although it’s a lot more common in women. The average age of affected individuals is about 40, though CRPS can occur to anyone older than five years.
CRPS symptoms vary in severity and duration. The main symptom is prolonged pain that can be constant and extremely uncomfortable for some people. Other symptoms may include:
- changes in skin texture on the affected area; it may appear shiny and thin
- abnormal sweating pattern in the affected area or surrounding areas
- changes in nail and hair growth patterns
- stiffness in affected joints
- problems coordinating muscle movement, with a decreased ability to move the affected body part
- abnormal movement in the affected limb
South Lake Pain Institute is now conducting clinical trials for CRPS to try and come up with new approaches to treat the disease, as well as limit the symptoms associated with it.