Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) refers to a chronic condition affecting the nerves and blood vessels of one or more extremities. It is distinguished by extremely unpleasant burning sensations, swelling, sweating, color changes, and other distressing symptoms.
There are two types of CRPS:
© 2009 Nucleus Medical Art, Inc.
The cause of CRPS is not known. The condition likely results from several factors. It may involve overactivity of the sympathetic nervous system, which directs automatic body functions that a person cannot willfully control. Inflammation also may play a role in the disorder.
A risk factor is something that increases your chances of getting a disease or condition. Minor or severe trauma increases the risk of CRPS:
If you experience any of these symptoms, do not assume it is due to CRPS. These symptoms may be caused by other, less serious health conditions. If you experience any one of them, see your doctor.
The upper extremities, 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 and perform a physical exam. 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.
Treatment options include:
Quick mobilization after surgery or injury can help minimize the risk of CRPS in the affected extremity.
In addition, a recent study builds on previous evidence that vitamin C may reduce the risk of CRPS after fracture. In the study, 416 mostly elderly women with fractured wrists were randomly given either a placebo or up to 1,500 mg of vitamin C daily for 50 days. Those patients who received vitamin C were significantly less likely to develop symptoms of CRPS compared to the placebo group. *
Last reviewed January 2008 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.