The exact cause for complex regional pain syndrome, is still not clear to researchers and doctors. This chronic pain condition is thought to develop after an illness or injury, even those considered minor. Despite this, the pain can be intense and for some, it may seem like there’s no relief in sight. The arms and legs are most often affected in sufferers of this disorder, though it can rarely target other areas of the body. The intense burning and aching pain associated with this disorder can be unbearable.
The intense pain of CRPS can worsen over time. Other symptoms can cause skin discoloration; joint stiffness, swelling and damage; a change in skin temperature, color or texture; hypersensitivity of the skin in affected areas; increased sweating; muscle spasms, weakness and loss of muscle (atrophy); changes in nail and hair growth; and possible loss of function in the affected area. Every patient will experience some or all of these symptoms in their own way. The experience of effects varies widely and they may come and go over a period of time. Over time, the affected part of the body can undergo skin and nail changes and become pale and cold to the touch. Muscles can also spasm or tighten. Once these changes begin, the condition is hard to reverse.
Types and Treatment of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome
There are two types of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. Type 1 used to be known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome. It develops after illness or injury that didn’t cause direct damage to nerves in the affected limb. The Mayo Clinic says about 90 percent of all people with CRPS have Type 1. Type 2 was once known as causalgia and occurs after a particular nerve is damaged. In addition to progression of the disease, CRPS can spread from the affected area to other parts of the body in different patterns.
The condition is best addressed as early as possible. In these cases, improvement, even remission, is quite possible. But it depends on whether treatment was pursued as early as possible. There is no single medical test to diagnose this condition so doctors may rely on a physical exam, bone scans, X-Rays, MRIs or tests of the sympathetic nervous system to make an accurate diagnosis. Various medications may be used in the treatment of CRPS. They include over-the-counter non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin or ibuprofen, and prescription medications such as antidepressants, anti-convulsants, bone loss drugs, corticosteroids and opioid painkillers. Other therapies that may provide added relief include heat and ice therapy, topical painkillers, physical therapy, biofeedback, spinal cord stimulation, sympathetic nerve block medication and electrical nerve stimulation.
If you or someone you know is experiencing constant intense pain that affects a limb and/ or makes touching or moving seem extremely painful or even intolerable, consult your doctor to determine the cause. It’s important to treat complex regional pain syndrome early for better results.