November 1, 2019
Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) formerly Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy is a chronic and extremely painful condition which is poorly understood. It is estimate that 1 in 3,800 people in the UK develop CRPS every year.
According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorder and Stroke (NINDS) CRPS is a chronic pain condition that most often affects one limb (arm, leg, hand or foot) usually after an injury. CRPS is believed to be caused by damage to, or malfunction of, the peripheral and central nervous systems.
Symptoms of CRPS may include;
- A burning, intense and stabbing type pain, which is continues after normal recovery would be expected.
- Increased sensitivity in the affected area, known as allodynia, in which normal contact with the skin is very painful.
- Changes in skin temperature, skin colour or swelling, where the affected limb may feel warmer or cooler, and the skin may become blotchy, blue, purple or pale red.
- Changes in skin texture; it may appear shiny and thin and changes in nail and hair growth in the affected area.
- Abnormal sweating pattern in the affected area.
Symptoms vary in severity and duration. In more severe cases, individuals may have unremitting pain and irreversible changes in spite of treatment. In some cases, CRPS can spread to other limbs. Ultimately, it can lead to amputation.
Although more common in women CRPS can occur in anyone, at any age, with a peak at age 40.
Currently there is no specific test that can confirm CRPS; to receive a diagnosis doctors and pain specialists use the ‘Budapest Criteria’. One of the criteria to be met is that there is lasting pain which is disproportionate to the initial injury or illness. The doctor therefore needs to judge when pain is disproportionate in time or degree, to the usual course of recovery after an injury.
Several other conditions can present symptoms similar to CRPS, so patients are usually tested for alternative causes and only when other causes have been ruled out are they diagnosed. CRPS is often misunderstood and misdiagnosed. However, early diagnosis is important because early treatment tends to lead to a better recovery. This is why raising awareness of this debilitating condition is vital.
There are a variety of ways CRPS can be treated, including therapies to help manage treatment, pain relief medication and psychological treatment. The aim of treatment is to allow a person to use the affected limb as normally as possible. Where symptoms are severe and do not improve, there may be a referral to a pain clinic for a specialist pain management programme.
The Burning Nights charity, who provide information and support to those affected by this condition, promote ‘Colour the World Orange Day’ on the 1st Monday of every November, and ask landmarks, buildings, and other companies to support them by lighting up in orange, organising a fundraising event, wearing something orange, or by supporting awareness on social media.
Here in the Serious Injury Team at Spencers Solicitors we have dealt with several clients who have developed CRPS following an accident or injury, and we are trained to spot the signs which may indicate the presence of such a condition. Our priority is to ensure that firstly the individual receives the treatment and support they need, and further, to ensure that specialist medical experts are instructed to report on the full extent and effect of the condition.
About the Author
Helen is a Chartered Legal Executive within our Serious Injury Team.
Helen, who joined the business in 2000, was admitted as a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Legal Executives in 2006. She has extensive experience of dealing with personal injury claims having worked within the claimant personal injury field for over fifteen years. Helen is a specialist in complex and serious injuries including head, brain and spinal cord injuries. Helen works closely with clients at each stage of the claim to provide the support and advice they need every step of the way.