Also known as Type 2 Complex Regional Pain Syndrome or CRPS, causalgia is a rare condition in which the arms or legs experience a continual sense of aching or burning pain. The condition is often accompanied by sweating, discoloration of the area that is experiencing the burning or itching, and a high degree of sensitivity. This pain can become worse over time, and is easier to treat if diagnosed and addressed in the early stages.
In addition to pain and discoloration, causalgia can also manifest several other symptoms. There is a noticeable change in the rate of nail and hair growth. The joints of the infected limb are likely to become stiff or begin to function improperly. In addition to becoming sensitive to the touch, the temperature of the affected limb may increase in a fashion that is somewhat like a localized fever.
There are a number of factors that can lead to the development of CRPS. Trauma to the limb is usually the underlying cause. The trauma may occur due to an injury sustained in an accident or a gunshot wound, for instance. Other issues can also trigger the condition, such as an infection, fractures to the bones in the limb, or even something as simple as a sprained wrist or ankle. At present, there is no consensus among health care professionals as to why causalgia may be triggered in some cases but not appear in others.
Causalgia treatment will often depend on the type of symptoms and their severity. The application of hot and cold packs to the lower or upper limb can sometimes help to ease the itching and sense of heat. Topical creams that contain analgesics can sometimes help to minimize the pain and help stiff joint to become more limber. Warm baths can also be effective for minor cases of the condition.
With more advanced cases, the treatment of causalgia syndrome will involve the use of physical therapy to help ease the joint stiffness and improve the range of motion. Medication to block the pain may also be prescribed by the attending physician. A procedure known as transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation can sometimes be used to send electric impulses through the nerves and ease the swelling and the pain. There is also a procedure involving the insertion of electrodes along the spinal column; the electrodes can be used to administer a small burst of current that helps to relax stiff muscles and ease nerve pain.
When diagnosed early, causalgia can often be managed with a great deal of success. There is also an increased opportunity for remission if the condition is treated shortly after its development. However, cases where the health issue is not diagnosed until the symptoms have progressed is likely to result in damage that is more or less permanent.