Uncommon in occurrence, complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is classified as a type of chronic pain that mostly occurs in the arm or legs. Individuals who undergo trauma of a forceful nature to an arm or leg, fracture or sprain their ankles, undergo surgery, or suffer from a stroke or heart attack may experience CRPS. At this point, little is known as far as what causes CRPS or triggers it. What is known is that the earlier CRPS is treated, the greater the likelihood the person experiences improvement or possibly remission.
Signs of symptoms associated with CRPS that one can experience include the following:
- Changes in the pigmentation of the skin
- Variations with regards to temperature of the skin (hot one minute, cold the next)
- Damage to and swelling of the joints
- Decrease in the mobility of the body part in pain
Not everyone will experience the same symptoms as they can vary from one person to another. An individual affected with CRPS can experience changes with regards to the nails and skin as well as well as tightening of the muscles. These changes, once they happen are irreversible. Those who experience CRPS commonly witness variations in temperature, skin sensitivity, pain, and redness first.
There are two distinct variations of CRPS. The first type is often referred to as reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome. This usually takes place following an injury or illness. The majority of people that experience CRPS, suffer from this variation of CRPS.
The second variation is known as causalgia. Unlike the first variation, this results from an illness or injury that impacts the nerves of the particular body part.
Failure to treat CRPS in a timely manner may result in the tissue of the impacted body part to waste (also known as atrophy) or the muscles becoming tightened, where body parts such as the fingers, hands, and toes lock into a fixed position.