What is Stiff-Person Syndrome, the Condition that Céline Dion Suffers From?

Céline Dion will not be on stage for some time: the singer is suffering from stiff-person syndrome. What do you notice when you have this disease? And is it curable?

Stiff-person syndrome often begins with pain and a stiff feeling, especially in the lower back. If this spreads to the trunk and legs, and the patient also experiences painful cramps, this syndrome may be involved.

Muscle stiffness, (severe) spasms, and increased sensitivity to stimuli such as sound and light are typical symptoms when you have had the condition for a while. As a result, the patient is in a lot of pain. The person also falls often, as a result of the spasms. During stress or cold weather, these spasms are even more likely to occur.

So a person with this condition has a lot of pain, but can also suffer many bone fractures as a result of falling unexpectedly. It has a big impact on your daily life, also says Dion in the video in which she said she has the syndrome. For example, she has difficulty walking and the disease affects her vocal cords. "I can't sing the way I'm used to anymore. That means I won't be ready to resume my tour in February."

According to doctor Emile Moukheiber, who explained the condition to CNN, many people with the syndrome suffer from anxiety. They are afraid of falling or having a spasm attack.

The syndrome is not common: about one in a million people get it. In the 1950s, someone was first diagnosed with the condition. Back then it was still called "stiff-man syndrome," but this was changed when it was found that it is women who suffer more.

It often takes a long time for someone to be diagnosed. The symptoms are very general and therefore it is difficult to determine if it is indeed stiff-person syndrome. Stiff-person syndrome is an autoimmune disease, but the exact cause is not known.

There is no cure. However, some medications relieve the symptoms, such as painkillers, anti-anxiety medication, and muscle relaxants. With these, the condition can be kept under control. "It is a disease that can take quite a toll," Moukheiber said.