It is important to treat Complex Regional Pain Syndrome early. If you experience constant, severe pain that affects a single limb and makes touching or movement of the limb seems intolerable, you should see your doctor to determine the cause. If properly and promptly treated, CRPS gets better in 75% of affected people.
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 beyond stage one, and only a small percentage of affected people advance to stage three. Initially, signs and symptoms 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
Source: Prairie Spine and Pain Institute, Dr. Richard A. Kube II, MD.