Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

(CRPS; Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy [RSD]; Causalgia; Sympathetically Maintained Pain)

Definition

Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) refers to a chronic condition that affects the nerves and blood vessels of 1 or more limbs.There are 2 types of CRPS:
  • CRPS 1, previously called reflex sympathetic dystrophy or RSD, has no observable nerve damage.
  • CRPS 2, previously called causalgia, produces similar symptoms after a verified nerve injury has occurred.
Complex Regional Pain Syndrome
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Causes

The cause of CRPS is not known. The condition likely results from several factors. It may involve overactivity of the sympathetic nervous system. Inflammation may also play a role in the disorder.

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase your risk of CRPS include:
  • Trauma
  • Fractures
  • Limb immobilization
  • Longer than normal healing time
  • The use of certain medications such as ACE inhibitors

Symptoms

Symptoms usually appear after an injury. The most important symptom of CPRS is prolonged pain that may be constant or severe. Pain is typically described as burning, throbbing, aching, squeezing, or shooting.Symptoms of CRPS change over time and may include:
  • Sensitivity to touch or even a light breeze
  • Swelling in the arm or leg
  • Unusual sweating patterns
  • Excessively warm or coolskin
  • Hair and nails that become brittle and crack
  • Abnormal movement in the arm or leg, such as a tremor, jerking, or spasms
  • A pale, blue, and/or shiny look to the skin
  • Limited joint movement

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