Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)
Complex regional pain syndrome, CRPS, is characterized by inflammatory redness, warmth and swelling caused by a chronic nerve disorder or injury to the nerve. CRPS is believed to be the result of central nervous system damage, including nerves that control blood vessels and sweat glands. Areas adversely affected by complex regional pain syndrome include blood vessels, muscles, bones, nerves, and skin. Possible causes include nerve injury, heart attack, or infection to the limbs.
CRPS generally manifests in 3 stages:
Stage 1 (up to 6 Months)
- Hot and cold changes in skin temperature
- Muscle spams
- Increased growth of hair and nails
- Joint Pain
- Changes in skin color (Blotchy, purple, pale, red, thin, shiney, swollen and with increased sweat activity
Stage 2 (up to 6 Months)
- Skin changes continue
- Pain worsens
- Hair growth slows
- Nails become brittle, crack, break
- Joint stiffen
- Muscles begin to weaken
Stage 3 includes irreversible changes that are visually obvious
- Contracture (tightened muscles and tendons)
- Wasting of muscles
- Limb pain (throughout limb)
Depression and anxiety often accompany the progression of symptoms and may contribute to disability.
Medications such as pain and steroid medicines, antidepressants, pain medication and medications that prevent boneloss are often prescribed and also indicative of diagnosis. Cognitive, occupational and physical therapy may be recommended to combat the symptoms of CRPS and to assist the patient in maintaining quality of life, although these therapies are not generally considered to cure or alleviate progression of the disease.
While early diagnosis of CRPS may improve outcomes, and the disease may recede, but changes to the muscles and bones may not be reversible. Prognosis of Complex Regional Pain ranges from recovery to crippling and disabling damage, cognitive impairment, depression, loss of muscle strength or irreversible damage to the limbs.