Inexplicable pain can be a human’s worst nightmare. When your body is crying out for help with no reason to do so, it’s hard to take that discomfort away or have it quickly diagnosed.
Such a difficult scenario may sometimes manifest itself in the form of CRPS – complex regional pain syndrome, also known as reflex sympathetic dystorphy.
CPRS is a state of often continuous and debilitating pain usually experienced in one limb. However, in some cases, the pain can also spread to other parts of the body. It’s a disease that tends to mainly affect women, but it can strike anyone at any age or any gender, with the average age being 40.
An injury is normally the starting point of CRPS, but the pain that follows tends to be of a greater degree and would last longer, as if the injury isn’t healing. This takes the form of a burning sensation, or even of being stabbed or stung. This could also be combined with some tingling and numbness.
The flare ups sufferers of CRPS have tend to be periods where the pain is experienced at a harsher level. This is often triggered by stress, where the skin becomes over-sensitive to touch, pressure and temperature, as the pain experienced by this is not proportionate to what the skin should go through. Relaxation techniques and mindfulness training are therefore usually prescribed to patients to help cope with the discomfort.
Since the pain is often localised in one part of the body, it may seem to the patient that this limb is detached from the body and disproportionate to its opposite body part. A change in temperature is also possible, where skin will either feel hot and scalded, or cold and clamped. The affected limb could also experience an excess of hair growth, and the sufferer’s nails tend to break easily. As a cause of the pain, there could also be joint stiffness and swelling in the area, with some tremors and muscle spasms.
Most patients find that mobility becomes harder as a cause of their pain, and it also interrupts their sleeping patterns, and they might also suffer from osteoporosis along the way.
The toil of CRPS sometimes leads to anxiety and depression, and certain sufferers who experience extreme levels of pain may also be driven to suicidal attempts.
Due to the cumbersome and deceiving nature of CRPS, diagnosis often proves to be difficult, and so doctors must cross examine to determine the cause of pain. More research is needed in order to make the path of diagnosis and recovery easier for both patients and medical professionals.
Nonetheless, CRPS sufferers are prescribed treatments such as psychotherapy and rehabilitation therapy to help cope with the symptoms, and in some cases, surgery may be required, such as surgical sympathectomy or spinal cord stimulation.
The 7th November has been marked as a day to raise awareness about CRPS, but of course, the strife of patients of this syndrome is ceaseless. Orange is CRPS’ representative colour.
How can we assist CRPS sufferers and the research needed? By raising awareness and contributing to the cause in any way we can.
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