Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)

Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a chronic pain condition. The key symptom of CRPS is continuous, intense pain out of proportion to the severity of the injury, which gets worse rather than better over time.

What are symptoms of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome?

CRPS most often affects one of the arms, legs, hands, or feet. Often the pain spreads to include the entire arm or leg. Typical features include dramatic changes in the color and temperature of the skin over the affected limb or body part, accompanied by intense burning pain, skin sensitivity, sweating, and swelling.

How is CRPS Diagnosed?

CRPS can be diagnosed in a number of different ways. The best and most accurate way is a clinical diagnosis by a CRPS-educated physician. A clinical diagnosis occurs when the patient presents himself to the physician. It is what the Doctor actually sees and hears in his office, not just reads in a test or report. MRI's, Cat-scans, X-rays, Bone-scans, and EMG's may show the presence of CRPS or some of its symptoms, often times it misses the disease altogether. CRPS is a difficult diagnosis that takes a skilled and CRPS-experienced physician in a clinical setting where he can observe the patients symptoms, sometimes over several visits, at different times of the day, and under different stress levels.

Does it matter when patients are diagnosed?

Patients must be diagnosed and treated aggressively within the first six to twelve months of the onset of symptoms if there is to be any real chance of reversal. While some Doctors may quote a lower figure all would agree that the odds decrease significantly every month after that with the greatest drop after twelve months. Also, the younger the patient the better their chances at reversal are; especially teenagers and below.

Is there any treatment?

Because there is no cure for CRPS, treatment is aimed at relieving painful symptoms. Doctors may prescribe topical analgesics, antidepressants, corticosteroids and opioids to relieve pain. Other treatments may include physical therapy, sympathetic nerve block, spinal cord stimulation, and intrathecal drug pumps to deliver opioids and local anesthetic agents via the spinal cord.

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