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The International Association for the Study of Pain (IASP) recognise three types of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS):
CRPS Type 1
CRPS Type 1 is a chronic or persistent pain condition which usually appears in one area of one limb, but can then spread elsewhere in that limb or to other parts of the body. It invariably appears in an area which has been subject to injury.
About 90% of people suffering CRPS are diagnosed with CRPS Type 1, which was formerly known as Reflexive Sympathetic Dystrophy (RSD). The symptoms of CRPS include allodynia, hyperalgesia and continuing pain. Sufferers can also experience changes in hair and nail growth in the affected limb and joints in that area can spasm or even seize up.
The absence of nerve damage complicates the diagnosis of CRPS Type 1. In addition, there is often no bony injury and relatively modest damage to the soft tissues. Despite this, the pain of CRPS is out of all proportion to the injury. Indeed, CRPS is the most painful condition known to medical science.
CRPS Type 2
CRPS Type 2, formerly known as Causalgia, is much rarer than CRPS Type 1, affecting around 10% of those diagnosed with CRPS. Unlike CRPS Type 1 where there is no identifiable nerve damage, CRPS Type 2 is caused as a result of an injury to a peripheral nerve. Peripheral nerves link the limbs and organs to the central nervous system.
As CRPS Type 2 is caused by an injury to the peripheral nerves, unlike CRPS Type 1, the pain and other symptoms do not spread beyond the original injury site.
In addition to Types 1 & 2, a third type of CRPS has been recognised – CRPS-NOS (Not Otherwise Specified).
CRPS (NOS) is a diagnostic label that can be attached when somebody only partially meets the diagnostic criteria of CRPS, but where no other diagnosis can be made.
Although there is no cure for CRPS, there are a variety of treatments and therapies which can often help the long term management of the condition, including reducing levels of pain.