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Symptoms of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome

The symptoms of complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) are many and varied, and differ slightly depending upon whether the afflicted person suffers from Type I or Type II of this disorder.

Type I, reflex sympathetic dystrophy (RSD) is the more common type, and that which most literature tends to focus on. RSD is categorized by a lack of nerve lesions following the injury that caused the onset of CRPS.

Causalgia is the common name for Type II CRPS, and is a rarer, more painful version of the disorder. Patients afflicted with causalgia have visible or otherwise obvious nerve damage, which is easy to pinpoint as the “cause” of the chronic pain.

Both types cause significant pain and sufferers may be able to file CRPS lawsuits if they were caused by a serious injury.  The symptoms common to both types are listed below:

  • Constant burning or throbbing pain usually begins at a source of a recent injury and slowly spreads throughout the affected area. The most common areas of pain are the in the limbs and extremities.
  • High sensitivity to pressure and temperature, even to light touch, can cause significant pain. Sensitivity to cold is especially high.
  • Swelling of the affected area often occurs.
  • Changes in skin color are apparent, redness being the most common, and coincide with warmth emanating from the affected area. The skin can also appear white, blue, or even a mottled, patchy pattern.
  • Changes in skin temperature affect sufferers of CRPS. The skin can be hot to the touch and frequently remain excessively sweaty for extended periods, but it can also change to cold and clammy.
  • The skin will become shiny, thin, and tender over time, noticeably changing the texture of the affected area.
  • For injuries to bony areas or joints, a certain amount of stiffness is to be expected in any situation. For sufferers of RSD or causalgia, the stiffness in the joints increases instead of diminishing over time, making movement excruciatingly painful. The joints also tend to swell, and damage is likely.
  • Perhaps the most surprising effect of CRPS is the changes in hair growth. Patients tend to either experience rapid growth of hair and fingernails, or a complete lack of growth.
  • As the swelling in the tissue and joints worsens, movement of the affected limb becomes increasingly limited until eventually it may be too painful to move at all. If RSD or causalgia is allowed to progress without being treated in some fashion, the lack of movement will likely spread to affect other parts of the body.
  • Lack of limb movement and inactivity in joints will lead to muscle weakness, as the afflicted person has no way of exercising the injured limb or extremity without experiencing pain. The muscle will likely begin to spasm and grow weaker until it has atrophied completely.

In both types of CRPS, the pain is said to be excruciating, even to the point that causalgia is considered to be the worst chronic pain a person can experience. On the McGill Pain Index, causalgia scores a 42 out of a possible 50, ranking higher than childbirth and amputation of a limb.  If you suffer from CRPS, RSD, or Causaglia, contact a California CRPS attorney today.


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