When most young couples expect a child, they wonder whether the child will have the father’s or the mother’s eyes, what their personality will be like, and what they may go on to achieve in their lifetime. Unfortunately, apart from those traits, young children can also receive an unwelcome gift from their parents – a hereditary disease. In a second, you’ll learn what Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS) is and whether it is genetic.
What Is Complex Regional Pain Syndrome?
CRPS is a group of diseases causing chronic pain. Patients will usually experience pain in their hands, arms, legs, and feet. In most cases, the painful episodes are caused by an injury of some sort, though the body’s pain response is significantly out of proportion. A person with CRPS can stab the toe and feel the pain not only in the feet – it can radiate to the leg or other parts of the body. In some cases, the pain might even spread to the entire body after even a seemingly minor injury. Apart from the pain, patients with CRPS also experience swelling, temperature changes, and both skin and bone changes in the affected regions.
Complex Regional Pain Syndrome is classified into two types:
- Patients with CRPS Type I – feel an intense pain spreading throughout their body, but their nerves are not damaged.
- Patients with CRPS Type II – experience pain and nerve damage at the same time.
In some cases (CRPS Type I), the episodes are caused by a small injury that doesn’t affect the nerves in the regions of the patient’s body that are affected. It might also be possible that specific nerve damage starts the painful episode (CRPS Type II). The exact mechanism of how a small injury can cause an abnormal body reaction is not yet known.
It is also important to note that those two types of CRPS can affect a single person. It means that some episodes might damage the nerves in the patient’s body, whereas others might cause no harm to the nerves. Another important fact that must not be overlooked is whether this is disguising some other form of trauma, especially if it is in relation to a head or brain injury and this may require traumatic brain injury treatment.
Some patients with CRPS report that the symptoms of this disease go away several hours after the painful episode. Unfortunately, in other cases, the symptoms might remain present for weeks or months.
If the pain and other symptoms don’t go away quickly on their own, patients should contact medical professionals as quickly as possible. That’s because studies have shown that in the case of longer episodes, it matters when the treatment of the patient begins. There is no one cure – instead, the treatment of patients with Complex Regional Pain Syndrome usually combines different methods.
Is CRPS Hereditary?
If you or your partner have CRPS, then you might be wondering whether it is a hereditary disease. Although the studies that have been conducted so far seem to suggest that it is not hereditary, things aren’t that clear. In a 2009 study, researchers collected data about the siblings of people who are diagnosed with CRPS. Out of 1,242 people, CRPS was diagnosed in 16 individuals. When the researchers looked at the age groups of people whose diagnosis was confirmed, they discovered that there might be a slight correlation among younger siblings. It is by no means comprehensive evidence that CRPS is hereditary, but the researchers have admitted that their study doesn’t fully answer the question and that the subject requires further study.
It is estimated that about one-fourth of patients with CRPS are eventually diagnosed with Dystonia. Involuntary muscle movements and bad posture are some of the symptoms of Dystonia. How is it related to CRPS? Although it seems that CRPS is not a hereditary disease, people who have both CRPS and Dystonia should expect that their children might have Dystonia. The gene that is responsible for Dystonia is usually dominant, which means that unless both of the parents have Dystonia, about 50% of children will be diagnosed with Dystonia eventually. There are also other forms of Dystonia where the same gene is recessive. In this case, the child won’t have Dystonia unless both of the parents have it too.
Admittedly, although our knowledge about different mechanisms that affect our bodies increases every day, we still don’t know enough about Complex Regional Pain Syndrome. The studies that have been conducted seem to indicate that CRPS is not a hereditary disease, though on the other hand we cannot exclude this possibility completely. Even if CRPS isn’t hereditary, there are other medical conditions, such as Dystonia that scientists have proven to be hereditary. That’s important, as a significant portion of patients diagnosed with CRPS eventually develop Dystonia as well. One thing is certain, before we can state anything with 100% certainty, we need more studies about CRPS being possibly passed from parents to children.