What is Complex Regional Pain Syndrome?

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome or CRPS is a chronic pain condition that affects the limbs (arms, legs, hands or feet) usually after an injury or trauma to that area. It is believed to be caused by damage to, or malfunction of, the peripheral and central nervous systems. The central nervous system is made up 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/or swelling in the affected areas.

There are two similar forms, called CRPS-I and CRPS-II, with generally the same symptoms and treatments. CRPS-II (previously referred to as causalgia) is the term used for patients with confirmed nerve injuries. Individuals without confirmed nerve injuries are classified as having CRPS-I (previously called reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome). Some research has identified evidence of nerve injury in CRPS-I, so the validity of the two different forms is being investigated.

Symptoms can vary in severity and duration. Studies of the incidence and prevalence of the disease show that most cases are mild and individuals recover gradually with time. In more severe cases, patients may not recover and may have long-term disability. It is much more common in women than men, and usually presents around age 40. It is rare in the elderly.

The pain associated with CRPS is usually described as burning or pins and needles. The painful area may spread to include the entire limb, even if the injury was only to a toe or finger. The pain may travel to the opposite extremity. Even light touch or contact to the area may cause pain, also known as allodynia.

Treatments vary from surgical, medicinal to psychotherapy, or combinations. For more information, you can visit: www.rsds.org www.rsdfoundation.org www.rsdhope.org www.ninds.nih.gov

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