Reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD) might be more easily understood as complex regional paid syndrome (CRPS). For purposes of understanding this condition, we will refer to it as CRPS. That’s because in many cases, a specific region of the body is affected. The two types of CRPS follow:
- Type 1: This can be caused by a traumatic injury like direct trauma or a crush injury. In rare cases, it might be caused by a stroke or a heart attack. Typically, there is no known damage to the affected body part. By far, trauma is the most common cause of type 1 CRPS.
- Type 2: This might include symptoms that are similar to type 1 CRPS, but there is a discernable nerve injury.
What is CRPS?
When a person experiences CRPS, he or she suffers chronic and sometimes permanent pain in a limb. The regions most often affected are either of the arms, hands, legs or feet. Symptoms might be mild and resolve over time. In severe cases, a person might be disabled for life. Symptoms of CRPS can include but not be limited to the following:
- Constant burning or throbbing pain.
- Joint swelling and stiffness with redness and localized sweating.
- Extreme sensitivity to touch, even with a sheet or a tissue.
- Distinct variations of temperature at the affected region.
- Muscle spasms and tremors.
- Muscle atrophy.
- Loss of range of motion of the affected body part.
What is the Cause of CRPS?
In more than 90 percent of all cases of CRPS, there is no question that it’s the result of trauma or an injury. The next most common causes are broken bones, sprains and strains, burns or having a limb immobilized in a cast. Even a minor cut or puncture can trigger an onset of CRPS. In some cases, the sympathetic nervous system that prepares the body for strenuous physical activity might play a major role in the condition. There is other evidence that CRPS might be the result of an immune response. That might be what causes symptoms of warmth, swelling and redness in the affected region.
Tests can be performed to rule out other conditions, but at this juncture, there is no specific test that can point to CRPS. A diagnosis of the disorder is based on the symptoms that are consistent with it and the medical history of the patient. What confuses the diagnosis of CRPS is that other conditions can have similar symptoms. The fact that many people who suffer the condition improve over time also makes diagnosis of CRPS increasingly difficult as symptoms often subside over time.
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