Complex Regional Pain Syndrome
Complex regional pain syndrome can strike at any age and affects both men and women, although most experts agree that it is more common in young women.
At this point, doctors aren't sure exactly what causes complex regional pain syndrome. In fact, in all likelihood, CRPS probably does not have a single cause, but is rather the result of multiple causes that produce similar symptoms.
Research scientists are studying complex regional pain syndrome, and are currently looking at certain chemicals in the nervous system and the immune system for possible CRPS causes.
Two-thirds of complex regional pain syndrome cases occur after some type of event or in people with certain conditions. While these are not causes or complex regional pain syndrome, they do increase the chances that a person will develop it. These events and conditions are called CPRS risk factors and include:
- Trauma to the affected area
- Surgery to the affected area
- Heart attack (myocardial infarction)
- Peripheral nerve injury
- Certain medications, including: tuberculosis medications, barbiturates, and cylosporin A.
The main symptom of complex regional pain syndrome is continuous, intense pain that is out of proportion to the severity of the injury, which gets worse rather than better over time.
(Click CRPS Pain for more information.)
Besides continuous, intense pain, other symptoms of complex regional pain syndrome can include:
- "Burning" pain
- Increased skin sensitivity
- Changes in skin temperature (warmer or cooler compared to the opposite extremity)
- Changes in skin color (often blotchy, purple, pale, or red)
- Changes in skin texture (shiny and thin and sometimes excessively sweaty)
- Changes in nail and hair growth patterns
- Swelling and stiffness in affected joints
- Motor disability with decreased ability to move the affected body part.
Complex regional pain syndrome symptoms can vary in severity and length. Some experts believe there are three stages associated with CRPS, marked by progressive changes in the skin, muscles, joints, ligaments, and bones of the affected area.