Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) refers to a chronic condition that affects the nerves and blood vessels of one or more limbs. Its features include unpleasant burning sensations, swelling, sweating, color changes, and other symptoms.
There are two types of CRPS:
Complex Regional Pain Syndrome
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The cause of CRPS is not known. The condition likely results from several factors. It may involve overactivity of the sympathetic nervous system. This directs automatic body functions that a person cannot control. Inflammation may also play a role in the disorder.
Factors that may increase your risk of CRPS include:
If you have any of these symptoms do not assume it is due to CRPS. These symptoms may be caused by other conditions.
The upper limbs, particularly the hands, are most commonly affected. Symptoms progress and may vary during the course of the condition. Pain may spread from one side of the body to another. Many doctors describe symptoms in terms of stages.
Symptoms may include:
Symptoms may increase with stress and worsen over time.
Symptoms may include :
Symptoms may include :
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. To diagnose CRPS, the doctor uses four criteria:
Tests may be ordered to rule out other conditions. Your doctor may refer you to a pain specialist for further evaluation and management. Tests may include the following:
Treatment aims to relieve pain and improve function. Visit the doctor as soon as possible. Early therapy may lead to better outcomes. In some cases, the condition goes away on its own; this is more common in children.
Treatment options include:
Quick mobilization after surgery or injury can help minimize the risk of CRPS in the affected limb. Other steps that might be helpful include:
International Research Foundation for RSD/CRPS
Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome Association
Promoting Awareness of RSD and CRPS in Canada
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Harden RN, Bruehl SP. Diagnosis of complex regional pain syndrome: signs, symptoms, and new empirically derived diagnostic criteria. Clinical Journal of Pain . 2006;22:415-419.
Complex Regional Pain Syndrome Fact Sheet. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at:
. Updated September 19, 2012. Accessed February 20, 2013.
8/10/2007 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance : Zollinger PE, Tuinebreijer WE, Breederveld RS, Kreis RW. Can vitamin C prevent complex regional pain syndrome in patients with wrist fractures? A randomized, controlled, multicenter dose-response study. J Bone Joint Surg Am. 2007;89:1424-1431.
11/9/2009 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance : Cacchio A, DeBlasis, E, Necozione S, di Orio F, Santilla V. Mirror therapy for chronic complex regional pain syndrome type 1 and stroke. N Engl J Med. 2009;361(6):634-636.
Last reviewed March 2013 by Rimas Lukas, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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