Is CPRS a Mental Illness?

Complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS) is a chronic (lasting greater than six months) pain condition that most often affects one limb (arm, leg, hand, or foot) usually after an injury. CRPS is thought to be caused by damage to, or failure to function of, the peripheral and central nervous systems. The central nervous system is comprised of the brain and spinal cord; the peripheral nervous system is responsible for signaling nerves of the brain and spinal cord and carries those signals to the rest of the body. CRPS is typified by prolonged or excessive pain and changes in skin color, temperature, and/or swelling in the affected area. Even though it is more widespread among women, but CRPS can take place in anyone at any age, with a peak at age 40. CRPS is exceptional in the elderly. Very few children under age 10 and almost no children under age 5 are affected.

How does CPRS affect one's mental stability?

Studies of reflex sympathetic dystrophy, the predecessor of CRPS type I, show a high incidence of depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder. It is important that clinicians be vigilant because patients with symptoms disproportionate to a physical cause may in fact have CRPS type I. The literature on CRPS type does not really address these issues, but therapy guidelines indicate that psychological factors may be important when pain has lasted for 2 months or more. Traumatic stress is noteworthy among patients.

How is CRPS diagnosed?

At present, there is no precise test that can substantiate CRPS. Its diagnosis is based on a person's medical history, and signs and symptoms that match the definition. Since other conditions can cause similar symptoms, careful examination is important. As most people get better gradually over time, the diagnosis may be more difficult later in the course of the disorder.

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