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How Is CRPS Diagnosed?

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) is notoriously difficult to diagnose and there is no straightforward method. To find out more about how CRPS is diagnosed, read our blog.


At Brian Barr, we specialise in complex regional pain syndrome compensation and, as a result, are well-versed on how the condition affects the lives of many. As a disease, CRPS is incredibly complex and poorly understood by many. Unfortunately, for suspected sufferers, there is no single test or quick way to find a diagnosis; instead, medical experts are required to carry out a number of tests to determine whether or not a patient has CRPS or is suffering with another condition. This, combined with the long list of symptoms caused by the syndrome, is what makes CRPS so difficult to diagnose. In this blog post, we reveal more about the diagnosis process and discuss why it’s so important to visit your doctor as soon as symptoms arise.

In most cases, patients are not diagnosed with CRPS until well over twelve months has passed since symptoms began. Typically, patients will visit between five and ten doctors before receiving a correct diagnosis, although this number is decreasing as knowledge of the condition increases. When seeking diagnosis, it’s important to visit a physician that’s well-versed in CRPS; if someone who isn’t familiar with the condition or how to treat it tries to carry out the diagnosis, serious problems and setbacks can arise. When it comes to complex conditions, such as CRPS, doing the wrong thing is often worse than doing nothing at all. It’s important that you receive a concrete diagnosis before claiming for complex regional pain syndrome compensation, so that you have sufficient evidence to back your case.

Medical experts will suspect that you have CRPS if you have a combination of the following symptoms:

  • Intense pain in your limbs (feet, hands, legs or arms)
  • Rapid hair growth
  • Changes in the shape and/ or colour of the nails
  • Visible changes in blood vessels
  • Pain that worsens with time
  • Swollen and/ or stiff joints
  • Pain that spreads
  • Decreased ability to move limbs
  • Skin hypersensitivity
  • Skin that is of a different temperature to skin on the rest of the body
  • Changes to the colour of the skin
  • Sweating on one side of the body or just on one limb

In terms of the diagnosis process, physicians must first rule out all other suspect conditions to determine whether or not a patient actually has CRPS, as many other syndromes have similar symptoms. Those with mild cases of CRPS will show similar symptoms to lupus, chronic fatigue syndrome, and muscular dystrophy. In order for specialists to rule out all other conditions, thorough tests must be carried out, including the following:

  • Blood tests to rule out infections or rheumatoid arthritis
  • MRI scans to rule out underlying problems with tissue and bones
  • X-rays to rule out problems with the joints and bones
  • Nerve conduction studies to rule out nerve damage

Whether or not CRPS shows in any of the above tests depends on a number of things, including the stage of the condition, age of the patient in question, skill level of the person carrying out the test, and whether or not the patient is currently suffering with another disease.

Once other conditions have been ruled out once and for all, a physical examination will be carried out by your GP or specialist to check for physical symptoms of CRPS, including swelling, as well as changes to the skin’s temperature and appearance. Although examinations will be physical, they will be gentle, so pain shouldn’t be increased. In some cases, it may take several visits for a physician to be able to successfully observe a patient’s symptoms properly. These visits will most likely be at different times of the day and under different stress levels; many patients experience changes in symptoms and pain levels based on the time of day.

After being diagnosed with CRPS, you’ll usually be referred to a specialist pain clinic that’s near to you and most likely located within a hospital. Referrals are usually made as soon as possible to ensure treatment is started quickly to reduce any unnecessary suffering. In order to increase the chance of reversal, patients must be diagnosed and treated within the first twelve months of experiencing symptoms. Typically, the younger the patient, the more chance of reversal.

If you have developed the condition after suffering from an accident or injury that wasn’t your fault, you could be entitled to complex regional pain syndrome compensation, which we can help with. To discuss your situation in further detail and find out whether or not you have a case, call our team for free on 0808 123 0003 or click here to fill in our online contact form.

We do not endorse any research, studies or sources mentioned within our blogs and comments. Furthermore, we do not endorse any medical advice provided, and would strongly recommend anyone seeking medical advice to contact their local healthcare provider.

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