A Complex Diagnosis: Complex Regional Pain Syndrome
Recently, we have heard from more people who end up with complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) after medical malpractice. Because we are seeing more of it, and because it is not always immediately recognized, we want to lay out some of the things to watch for.
To start, CRPS is considered a chronic pain condition that usually affects a limb – arm, leg, hand, or foot. It also usually develops after an injury or trauma to that limb, for example after a surgery. (Not surprisingly, most of our clients with CRPS developed it after an injury from some sort of medical procedure.)
CRPS has been known by many names over the years, including more recently reflex sympathetic dystrophy syndrome. People believe it may be caused by problems with the nervous system and perhaps the immune system. NIH has a helpful fact sheet here.
While early diagnosis is important, there is no one way to diagnose CRPS. As a patient there are some telltale signs and symptoms to look out for:
- Unexplained pain (described as deep, aching, cold, burning, and/or with increased skin sensitivity)
- Pain out of proportion to an initial injury
- Pain from things that should not cause pain, like from the touch of clothing or a shower
- Swelling in the area
- Abnormal hair or nail growth
- Abnormal skin color changes
- Abnormal skin temperature (compared to unaffected areas)
These are just some of the signs and symptoms of CRPS. They may come and go and change over time in the same person.
In our cases, one very common theme we hear from medical experts is this: Early recognition, correct diagnosis, and proper treatment are all essential.
The good news: if our experience is any indication, CRPS seems to be getting more attention, leading to earlier recognition, diagnosis, and treatment for more patients.