What is stiff person syndrome? Everything Celine Dion has said about rare disorder

By Staff 6 Min Read

Celine Dion shocked the world in 2022 after revealing she had been diagnosed with a rare autoimmune disorder called stiff person syndrome. Here’s everything the star has said about the condition since

Legendary singer Celine Dion turns 56 today as she continues to battle an extremely rare autoimmune disorder.

The French-Canadian star revealed the shock diagnosis back in 2022, after cancelling all of her tour dates for 2023 and 2024. Taking to Instagram, Celine told her followers she had been ‘dealing with health problems for a long time’ and announced she was fighting with stiff person syndrome (SPS).

The singer had stayed relatively quiet on her health journey, but last year her sister Claudette Dion told reporters that her sibling ‘doesn’t have control of her muscles anymore’. Last month, the star described trying to overcome the condition as ‘one of the hardest experiences’ of her life – but says she remains ‘determined to get back onto the stage’ and live life as normal.

What is stiff person syndrome?

SPS is a rare, progressive syndrome that affects the nervous system – particularly the brain and spinal cord. According to the Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Centre, fewer than 5,000 people in the US have been diagnosed with the condition – which is often mistaken for Parkinson’s disease.

Those suffering from SPS, which is most common in adults between the ages of 40 and 50 and disproportionately affects women, can suffer from chronic pain, falls, and a loss of mobility. The condition can also cause a heightened sensitivity to noise, sudden movements, and emotional distress, which can set off muscle spasms.

What are the symptoms of stiff person syndrome?

Symptoms of SPS can vary and may be difficult to detect. Healthline reports the main warning sign is muscle stiffness, including:

  • Limb stiffness
  • Stiff muscles in the trunk
  • Painful muscle spasms
  • Difficulty walking
  • Sensory issues
  • Posture problems from rigid back muscles

Some sufferers also experience anxiety, hyperhidrosis (abnormal excessive sweating), and agoraphobia – a fear of public spaces. It is worth contacting your GP if you’re struggling with any of these side-effects, but it is worth noting they’re likely caused by less serious issues.

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What causes stiff person syndrome?

Little is known about the causes of stiff person syndrome, but it is thought to be a result of ‘increased muscle activity due to decreased inhibition of the central nervous system’. SPS is often associated with diabetes and conditions such as thyroiditis, vitiligo, and pernicious anaemia – but this doesn’t necessarily mean they’re risk factors.

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