Celine Dion Shares Stiff Person Syndrome Diagnosis: What to Know

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Celine Dion revealed she’s been diagnosed with a neurological condition called stiff person syndrome in an Instagram post Thursday morning. The 54-year-old singer said the condition is the cause of her recent health problems, including debilitating muscle spasms that led to tour cancellations.

“As you know, I’ve always been an open book, and I wasn’t ready to say anything before, but I’m ready now,” Dion says in a video. “I’ve been dealing with problems with my health for a long time, and it’s been really difficult for me to face these challenges and to talk about everything I’ve been going through.”

She said that the spasms caused by stiff person syndrome have taken a huge toll on her, explaining, “Unfortunately, these 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.” She added that she won’t be able to restart her European tour in February, as she’d planned. “For me to reach you again, I have no choice but to concentrate on my health at this moment. And I have hope that I’m on the road to recovery,” she explained. “This is my focus, and I’m doing everything that I can to recuperate.”

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Stiff person syndrome is rare, according to the Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD), a division of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which estimates there are fewer than 5,000 people living with it in the US. It affects the brain, spinal cord, and nervous system, and causes muscle stiffness and rigidity in addition to the painful spasms Dion described.

People with the condition, which is twice as common in women than men, can also be more sensitive to noise, sudden movements, and emotional distress, which can trigger muscle spasms. Stiff person syndrome causes some people to frequently fall because their defensive reflexes don’t work correctly, which can cause severe injuries, per the NIH. The condition is progressive, and persistent symptoms, which usually show up between ages 19 to 65, can cause the spine to change shape. For instance, people with stiff person syndrome may eventually develop a hunched-over posture, per the GARD.

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