Complex regional pain syndrome : Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Alternate Names : CRPS, RSDS, Causalgia – RSD, Shoulder-hand syndrome, Reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome, Sudeck’s atrophy

Definition

Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a chronic pain condition that mainly affects the arms and legs.

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors

Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) has two forms:

  • CRPS 1 is a chronic nerve disorder that occurs most often in the arms or legs after a minor injury.
  • CRPS 2 is caused by an injury to the nerve.

The cause of CRPS is not completely understood. It is thought to result from damage to the nervous system, including the nerves that control the blood vessels and sweat glands.

The damaged nerves are no longer able to properly control blood flow, feeling (sensation), and temperature to the affected area. This leads to medical problems in the:

  • Blood vessels
  • Bones
  • Muscles
  • Nerves
  • Skin

Possible causes of CRPS:

  • Injury or infection in an arm or leg
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke

The condition can sometimes appear without obvious injury to the affected limb.

This condition is more common in people ages 40 – 60, but it has been seen in younger people too.


Review Date : 2/13/2008
Reviewed By : Luc Jasmin, MD, PhD, Departments of Anatomy & Neurological Surgery, University of California, San Francisco, CA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

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