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In a video on her Instagram last week, Canadian singer Celine Dion shared with the world that she’s recently been diagnosed with a rare neurological disorder called stiff-person syndrome. Dion will be taking a break from touring and performing, but what is this condition, and will she be able to return? Read on below to find out.
What is stiff-person syndrome?
As the name suggests, stiff-person syndrome (SPS) is a condition that causes rigidity and stiffness of the body. The condition also causes muscle spasms that can make regular daily tasks difficult. Stiff-person syndrome is a very rare condition and likely affects fewer than 500 people in the United States.
Is stiff-person syndrome painful?
Stiff-person syndrome can be incredibly painful at times, mostly due to the intense muscle spasms it causes. These spasms can be triggered by environmental factors including cold weather, sudden movement, or loud temperatures.
The primary effect of the condition is the extreme muscle stiffness that makes it difficult to move and operate normally. Dion said, “The spasms affect every aspect of my daily life, sometimes causing difficulties when I walk and not allowing me to use my vocal cords to sing the way I’m used to.”
Can stiff-person syndrome be treated?
Stiff-person syndrome has no known cure, and limited treatment options mean that those diagnosed with it have few resources available to help them manage the condition. There are no clinically proven treatment options, so all that most stiff-person syndrome patients can do is use remedial solutions to help ease the stiffness.
One commonly used treatment option includes therapies that target the autoimmune system’s reflexes. One of these therapies is intravenous immunoglobulin, which can decrease stiffness, improve reflexes, and overall help improve the quality of life for the patient.
How did Celine Dion get stiff-person syndrome?
Stiff-person syndrome is an incredibly rare condition, so research hasn’t been able to pinpoint precisely what causes it. SPS affects only about one in a million people and is most often found in middle-aged people. One commonality among many SPS patients is the presence of high glutamic acid decarboxylase (GAD) antibody levels in the blood. Only one percent of the general population has these antibodies, while about 80 percent of people with stiff-person syndrome do.
It’s not known whether the presence of GAD antibodies causes stiff-person syndrome or is a symptom of it, and it’s possible that they are simply a sign that the syndrome exists in someone and not a direct cause or harmful effect of it.
Is Celine Dion still able to perform?
With her diagnosis and the hardship it must be causing, will Dion still be able to continue performing? As of now, she’s postponed her spring 2023 tour dates to spring 2024 and has altogether canceled her summer 2023 tour dates. The environmental factors that can cause painful muscle spasms in SPS patients will most likely make it difficult for her to continue performing and touring in the future.