Complex regional pain syndrome

Arms | Neurology | Complex regional pain syndrome (Disease)


Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is an uncommon nerve disorder. It is the cause of intense pain, usually in the arms, hands, legs or feet. It happens after an injury, either to a nerve or to tissue in the affected area.

Rest and time may only make it worse.

Symptoms can range from mild to severe and may last months or years. The cause of CRPS is not clear, but treatment aims to relieve symptoms and restore limb function (movement and activity). Most people recover fully, but the condition can recur and for a small group of people with CRPS, symptoms may be severe and persist for years. CRPS used to be known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD).

The symptoms of CRPS may include:

(1) Burning pain in the arm, hand, leg or foot

(2) Pain that changes in intensity, but often feels much worse than may be expected

(3) Changes to the skin, hair and nails on the affected limb

(4) Tremors or spasms

(5) Stiffness

(6) Loss of fine motor control

(7) The affected limb is warmer or colder than the unaffected limb

(8) The affected limb is sweatier or drier than the unaffected limb.

Causes and Risk factors

Doctors are not sure what causes it. It is a chronic progressive disease characterized by severe pain, swelling and changes in the skin. It often affects an arm or a leg and may spread to another part of the body and is associated with dysregulation of the autonomic nervous system resulting in multiple functional loss, impairment and disability.

CRPS can strike at any age, but the mean age at diagnosis is 42. CRPS has been diagnosed in children as young as 2 years old. It affects both men and women; however, CRPS is 3 times more frequent in females than males.

Diagnosis and Treatment

Though treatment is often unsatisfactory, early multimodal therapy can cause dramatic improvement or remission of the syndrome in some patients. ...

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