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23 / 02 / 2018
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Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS)


Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is an uncommon, chronic condition that usually affects your arm or leg. Very rarely, the disease can affect other parts of your body. You may experience intense burning or aching pain along with swelling, skin discoloration, altered temperature, abnormal sweating and hypersensitivity in the affected area.

The nature of CRPS is puzzling, and the cause isn't clearly understood. The condition may result from disturbances in the sympathetic nervous system, the part of the nervous system that controls blood flow and your sweat glands. The disease commonly follows an acute problem. Most often, CRPS is preceded by a major injury to an arm or a leg, but it may also be triggered by an illness such as a heart attack or a minor injury you can't even recall.

Women are more likely to be affected by CRPS than men are. The condition is most common in people between the ages of 40 and 60, but it can occur at any age.

Signs and symptoms

CRPS occurs in two types, with similar signs and symptoms but different causes. Type I, previously known as reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome, occurs following an illness or injury that has not directly damaged the nerves in your affected limb. Type II, once referred to as causalgia, follows a distinct nerve injury.

Signs and symptoms of both types of CRPS develop in three stages. Some people never progress past stage one, and only a small percentage of affected people advance to stage three. Signs and symptoms initially appear only near the site of the injury.

Stage one generally lasts from one to three months and is characterized by:

  • Burning or aching pain, tenderness and swelling.

  • Changes in skin temperature, color and texture. At times your skin may be sweaty, at other times it may be cold. Skin color can range from white and mottled to red or blue. Skin may become tender, thin or shiny in the affected area.

  • Increased hair and nail growth.

  • Joint stiffness and muscle spasms.

Stage two may last from three to six months and is marked by:

  • Intensified, spreading pain and swelling.

  • More pronounced changes in skin color and texture.

  • Slowing of hair growth and nail deterioration. Cracking, grooving and spotting may occur in your nails.

  • Worsening stiffness in the muscles and joints of the affected limb.

In stage three, permanent damage occurs. Signs and symptoms may include:

  • Debilitating pain that may now affect an entire limb

  • Muscle wasting (atrophy) and advanced joint damage, causing reduced mobility in the affected part of your body

  • Irreversible skin damage


Most cases of CRPS occur following a forceful trauma to the extremities, such as a gunshot wound or shrapnel blast. Other major and minor traumas — surgery, heart attacks, infections, fractures and even sprained ankles — also can lead to CRPS. It's not well understood why these injuries sometimes trigger CRPS.

When to seek medical advice

If you experience constant, severe pain that affects a single limb and makes touching or movement of the limb seem intolerable, see your doctor to determine the cause. It's important to treat CRPS early. If properly and promptly treated, CRPS gets better in 75 percent of affected people.

Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) > 1 > 2 > 3 > 4

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This information is provided for general medical education purposes only and is not meant to substitute for the independent medical judgment of a physician relative to diagnostic and treatment options of a specific patient's medical condition.

In no event will the be liable for any decision made or action taken in reliance upon the information provided through this web site.
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Dr. Eddy Bettermann M.D.

Mob: +60.17 545 1784         +66.89 8550 5066





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