Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. (Formerly known as Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy or RSD) Four complicated words that can change life as you know it forever. So what is Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)? CRPS is a disease of the central and autonomic nervous systems. While it is more prevalent in women, men can get it as well. CRPS is a diagnosis of exclusion, meaning that doctors have to test for everything else before they can diagnose CRPS. Therefore, it is easily misdiagnosed.
Within the autonomic nervous system, there are two branches: the parasympathetic or "rest and digest" mode and the sympathetic or the "fight or flight" response. With CRPS, the sympathetic nervous system is inappropriately activated for a prolonged amount of time.
There are two kinds of CRPS. Type 1 and Type 2. Type 1 occurs without a direct injury to a nerve. Many people with type 1 CRPS do not know why their symptoms have started. On the other Type 2 CRPS, formerly known as causalgia, occurs after a direct injury to a nerve causing some degree of damage.
Regardless of whether someone had type 1 or type 2, the general course of the disease is similar. Most people experience a burning, stabbing, shocking, gnawing, crushing, throbbing, and cold pain. Every person is different, so these are just a few ways that someone with CRPS might describe their pain.
Some other symptoms of CRPS include: -Allodynia: hypersensitivity to light touch -Hyperalgesia: extreme hypersensitivity to pain -Changes in hair and nail growth -Skin color changes -Skin texture changes -Temperature changes -Changes to sweating patterns -Stiffness in joints -Temporary paralysis -Delayed wound healing -Hypersensitivity to sounds and light -Irritability -Edema -Depression -Insomnia -Fatigue -Dystonia: the involuntary muscle spasms causing a fixed contracture of a single extremity or multiple extremities -Myoclonus/tremors: the quick random jerking movements -Muscle atrophy -Osteopenia/Osteoporosis: bone density loss due to reduced blood flow
CRPS is rated a 42/50 on the McGill Pain Scale, higher than cancer, childbirth, and the traumatic amputation of a finger. Because it is so painful and it is hard to find good doctors to treat this condition, CRPS has a grim nickname: the "Suicide Disease." We lose too many RSD/CRPS warriors because the pain is just so unbearable. The CRPS community must band together to get us the cure we so desperately deserve. Remission is possible, but we need a CURE. It all starts with AWARENESS. Until then, "Keep your chin up and charge the mountain!"