Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is also known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome. This is a condition characterized by chronic pain resulting from a dysfunction in the peripheral or central nervous system. CRPS may affect children but is most common amongst people between the ages of 20 and 35 years. Women have a higher risk of suffering from CRPS compared to men. It is not a very common condition and there is no known cure for it.

Syndrome Of Complex Regional Pain

Not everyone suffering from CRPS exhibits the same symptoms. The symptoms may differ on the basis of length and severity and change with time and may be aggravated by emotional stress. The typical symptoms of this condition are:

  • Intense pain that worsens with time
  • Pain that is dis-proportional to the extent of injury. For example, even if only one finger is injured, pain may be experienced in the entire arm. Pain may also travel to the opposite extremity.
  • Continuous burning or throbbing pain
  • Stiffness and swelling in the affected joints
  • Difficulty or inability moving the affected part
  • Changes in hair and nail growth patterns. For example, there may be no hair growth at all or there may be very rapid hair growth.
  • Changes in skin temperature. The skin in one extremity may be cool while the other is warm.
  • Pale or blotchy skin
  • Thin, shiny, excessively sweaty skin
  • Hyper-sensitivity to cold
  • Muscle spasms

Causes Of CRPS

CRPS is usually caused by a combination of factors that have similar symptoms. According to experts, it develops when the pain receptors in the affected parts of the body respond to catecholamines or messengers of the nervous system.

In the case of CRPS associated with an injury, a response from the immune system may result in inflammation of the affected area accompanied by warmth and redness. In such cases, CRPS may disrupt the healing process.

CRPS Diagnosis

There is no specific test to diagnose this condition. However, tests may be conducted to rule out other conditions. Thus, diagnosing this condition especially when the symptoms are mild or few can be very difficult. It is typically diagnosed by observing symptoms such as:

  • Initial injuries
  • Severe pain
  • Change in appearance of the affected area


If left untreated, CRPS can cause tissue atrophy and tightening of the muscles

Since there is no known cure for the condition, treatment is aimed at relieving pain and making the patient more comfortable. It may be treated with drugs, physical therapy and psychotherapy.

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