What is CRPS or Complex Regional Pain Syndrome?
Complex regional pain syndrome or CRPS is a long-term pain condition which affects a specific limb usually after an operation has taken place there. The condition is described as chronic and is believed to be caused by damage to the CNS (central nervous system) and the peripheral nervous system.
Who does CRPS affect?
There isn’t an exact figure of how many people are affected by CRPS, however, a study conducted found that in the UK, 1 in 3800 people develop the condition per year.
CRPS is common in women, however, it can affect anyone at any age. Those developing the condition will normally see symptoms showing by at least 50 and with women making up 3 out of 4 cases, it is important to get this checked out if symptoms are being experienced. It is rare in the elderly and even rarer in children under 10 as well as almost unfound in children below 5 years old.
What are the symptoms of CRPS?
CRPS is a condition that has some significant symptoms. Its main and maybe most well-known symptom is the prolonged burning pain that combines feelings such as stinging and stabbing pains alongside burning and tingling sensations. This feeling causes great discomfort for the patient and can, unfortunately, flare up at any time.
The pain can be so intense that it can be described using the terms ‘hyperalgesia’ and ‘allodynia’, which both refer to increased sensitivity to light pressures that wouldn’t normally be painful.
Other symptoms of CRPS include:
• Changes to the skin i.e. The affected limb at times, may flare up and become hot as well as red and dry and other times may turn cold, sweaty and sometimes blue.
• Changes to hair and nails i.e. Nails may become grooved or brittle and hair may grow slower or quicker in the affected area.
• Muscles spasms and tremors can occur.
• Insomnia or hard time sleeping.
• Stiffness in joints and increase swelling.
• Skin infections, ulcers, muscles contractures and atrophy, however, this is in very rare cases.
CRPS is a very hard condition to live with and has been found to lead to psychological problems such as anxiety and depression. The extreme pain caused by the condition has led sufferers to believe there is no other way out and therefore has caused some to consider suicide.
It is important to see your GP or contact the Samaritans on 116 123 if you are experiencing any of these feelings.
Due to the complexity of the condition, CRPS is hard to treat. The main method of treatment at the moment is a combination of pain medications and physiotherapy, which aim to limit the pain the condition causes over time.