What is stiff person syndrome, the condition Celine Dion suffers from?

Celine Dion has had to cancel her upcoming tour. (Getty Images)
Celine Dion has had to cancel her upcoming tour. (Getty Images)

In recent days, Celine Dion tearfully revealed that she had been diagnosed with Stiff Person Syndrome, which was preventing her from going ahead with her European tour.

She shared that the condition affected “every aspect” of her daily life, including her ability to sing, and that it took her a while to be ready to admit it publicly.

She explained: “I’ve been dealing with problems with my health for a long time, and it’s been really difficult for me to face my challenges and to talk about everything that I’ve been going through.”

Here is a look at what Stiff Person Syndrome is, its symptoms, and treatments.

What is Stiff Person Syndrome?

Stiff Person Syndrome (SPS) is a rare progressive neurological condition.

It is known to impact twice as many women as men, and it’s frequently associated with other autoimmune diseases like vitiligo, thyroiditis, and diabetes.

Scientists aren’t sure what causes the disorder, but research suggests that it might be the result of a faulty autoimmune response in the brain or spinal cord.

What are the symptoms of Stiff Person Syndrome?

Symptoms of SPS include stiff muscles in the arms and legs, and spasms.

The patients are also often more sensitive than usual to noise, touch, and emotional stress, and can experience muscle spasms as a result.

This might impact their mental health and make them afraid to leave their homes because they don’t want street noises or smells to trigger their bodies.

Over time, SPS sufferers might develop hunched or abnormal postures, and be too disabled to move or walk.

Their reflexes will also be affected, which could lead to those with the condition frequently falling down, unable to catch themselves.

How is Stiff Person Syndrome diagnosed?

SPS is often misdiagnosed with other neurological diseases because of its rare and lesser-known nature. The misdiagnoses might see healthcare professionals think the patient is experiencing Parkinson’s disease, Multiple Sclerosis, anxiety or phobias.

A blood test is used to get a definitive diagnosis, which looks at the glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD) levels. Those with the condition have higher levels of GAD than normal.

The doctor will also look at the level of antibodies in the blood, as those with SPS will have elevated levels.

The condition leads to muscle stiffnes, spasms, and dulled reflexes (Pexels)
The condition leads to muscle stiffnes, spasms, and dulled reflexes (Pexels)

How is Stiff Person Syndrome treated?

Stiff Person Syndrome is currently incurable but, with the right treatment plan, the symptoms can be kept under control.

Several symptoms of the condition can be alleviated using anxiety or muscle-spasm medications.

A study by America’s National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke found that intravenous immunoglobin, which contains natural antibodies produced by the immune system, has helped with the majority of symptoms. These are only available through people voluntarily donating their immunoglobin.