The Causes and Symptoms of CRPS and RSD

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) also frequently referred too as Reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD) is a chronic, progressive neurological condition that can lead to debilitating pain.

It is a multi-symptom syndrome of the autonomic nervous system that affects one or more of the extremities. It can also be found in the face, back shoulders and other areas of the body.

CRPS also frequently spreads to other areas of the body and severe cases can result in functional loss of limbs, impairment and disability.

Two types of CRPS / RSD have been identified:

  • Type 1 – previously known as RSD, is less severe and is without nerve injury. It usually follows a simple trauma, fracture (especially the wrist or ankle), a sharp force injury (such as bullet or knife wound), injections and other phlebotomy procedures or repetitive stress injuries and carpal tunnel syndrome;
  • Type 2 – formerly known as causalgia, is when the individual has a definable major nerve injury.

Causes of CRPS / RSD

The exact biological mechanism of CRPS is not yet known. One prominent theory is that the syndrome is caused by an immune response that causes inflammation, redness and warmth to the affected area.

While the mechanism is not yet known, the common causes of the syndrome are known. CRPS usually results from some form of trauma, such as a broken limb.

However, it can also result from seemingly minor trauma such as venipuncture procedures or IV insertions. Approximately 65% of all CRPS cases come from soft tissue injuries such as sprains, strains and tears.

If you or a loved one suffers from CRPS or RSD and believe it resulted from the acts of a third-party, you should consult an attorney as you may be entitled to significant compensation.

Symptoms of CRPS / RSD

CRPS usually affects one of the extremities (legs, feet, hand or arms) and typically progresses in three stages:

  • Stage One (Acute) – when the patient experiences burning pain, swelling, increased sensitivity to touch, and color and temperature changes to the affected area (area is red and warm). This usually occurs during the first 1-3 months.
  • Stage Two (Dystrophic) – when the patient experiences constant pain and swelling, skin appears bluish and is cool to the touch. The patient also experiences a burning pain and muscle stiffness and atrophy. The swelling may spread, hair growth in the area decreases, and the nails become cracked and brittle.
  • Stage Three (Atophic) – is characterized by severe pain which may involve the entire affected limb. There is distinct muscle atrophy, limited mobility and contractions of the muscles and tendons of the affected area. Additionally, the skin around the affected area appears cool and shiny.