Complex regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) is a chronic pain condition in which high levels of nerve impulses are sent to an affected site. Experts believe it occurs as a result of dysfunction in the central or peripheral nervous system. This condition most often affects women, and people who are ages 20-35. It is also more common in people with some other inflammatory or autoimmune disorders, such as asthma.
Diagnosing this condition is difficult. In some cases it may take years to get a correct diagnosis. Some doctors think that pain receptors in the affected body part become to catecholamines. These are simply nervous system messengers. In other words these messengers carry a pain message from the brain to the affected area. In 90% of cases, CRPS is be caused by some sort of injury, and this triggers an immune response, such as swelling, warmth, or redness of the affected area. Occasionally CRPS can develop without a known injury. However, there may have been an internal injury caused by infection, a blood vessel problem or entrapment of the nerves.
Some symptoms can include pain, swelling, warmth and redness in a localized area. These symptoms can be caused by so many disorders, and that is why CRPS is so difficult to diagnose. Oftentimes doctors will make a diagnosis by ruling out other disorders, such as arthritis, Lyme disease, generalized muscle diseases, clotted veins, or small nerve fiber polyneuropathies (such as from diabetes). The distinguishing feature to CRPS is a history of an injury to the area.
Some treatments for CRPS include: physical therapy, psychotherapy, medication, sympathetic nerve blocks (injections into the nerves to numb pain), surgical sympathectomy (removing the nerve cluster thought to be causing pain), spinal cord stimulation (electrodes implanted into the spine near the spinal cord) and intrathecal drug pumps (a device that pumps pain relieving medication to the fluid that surrounds the spinal cord). There are also some emerging experimental treatments, such as intravenous immunoglobulin, ketamine (a powerful anesthetic given in low doses over a period of days), or hyperbaric oxygen (pressurized air that delivers more oxygen to the body’s tissue and organs).
The prognosis for CRPS varies. Typically children and teens have good recovery. Some people are left with unremitting pain and crippling, which can be permanent. It is thought by some doctors that early treatment, particularly physical therapy, is helpful in limiting the disorder. This is just a theory right now, because more research needs to be done on the condition. There is, however no known cure for CRPS. If you believe you could be suffering from this condition, you should consult your physician. You are your own best advocate for treatment and diagnosis.