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What is Stiff Person Syndrome?

Stiff person syndrome is a rare autoimmune neurological disorder that most commonly causes muscle stiffness and painful spasms that come and go and can worsen over time. It is a very rare disease that is only found in 1 or 2 people in a million. It usually is found in people between the ages of 40-50 years old and it has no cure. Stiff person syndrome is not just one disease, there is a spectrum meaning that it has a variety of ways it shows up in people.

Three types of SPS are Classic Stiff Person Syndrome, Partial Stiff Person Syndrome, and Stiff Person Syndrome Plus. Classic Stiff Person Syndrome is when the disease manifests as muscle contractions mostly in the legs, lower back, and occasionally in the abdomen. Partial Stiff Person Syndrome is when the disease manifests itself as stiff muscle contractions in one leg, not usually the abdomen or back. Stiff Person Syndrome Plus is when there is a combination of classic features as well as symptoms that suggest brainstem and/or cerebellar dysfunction like double-vision or slurred speech. All forms of Stiff Person Syndrome are painful and while the spasms come and go, they may get more frequent over time and last longer.

SPS is often connected to other autoimmune disorders like type 1 diabetes, thyroid disorders, certain types of anemia, and vitiligo. Symptoms can also be triggered more frequently in people who suffer from anxiety.

Though there is no cure for Stiff Person Syndrome, there are medications and treatments that work to relieve symptoms like muscle relaxers and botulinum toxin treatments. Other treatments and care can include things like physical therapy, massage, heat therapy, etc.

Stiff Person Syndrome is extremely rare. It is still being studied and new treatments are in the works.

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