Stiff Person Syndrome

Stiff person syndrome or SPS is referred to as an autoimmune neurological disorder. Similar to other complications, stiff person syndrome targets and affects the central nervous system, such as the brain and the spinal cord.

The autoimmune disorder takes place when the body’s immune system mistakenly sees healthy body tissues as dangerous and attacks them.

Although stiff person syndrome is very uncommon, it can affect the quality of a person’s life significantly, especially if treatment isn’t administered.

Symptoms of SPS

The most common symptom of SPS is muscle stiffness. Other early symptoms could include the following:

  • Difficulty walking
  • Stiffness in the limb
  • Trunk stiffness
  • Sweating excessively (hyperhidrosis)
  • Posture complications caused by rigid back muscles
  • Unpleasant muscle spasms
  • Sensory complications that could include noise, light sensitivity, and sound

Seizures caused by stiff person syndrome can be severe and may cause a person to fall if they were standing. These spasms can be fatal enough to break bones in the body.

It can be worst when a person is upset or anxious. They can also be triggered by quick movements, being touched suddenly, or loud noise.

A person with SPS may also suffer from anxiety or depression. This may be triggered by other symptoms that a person might be experiencing, which may include a decreased function in the brain.

The possibility of emotional complications can increase as the condition progresses. A person with SPS May also experiences increased spasms when they are out in public. This could trigger anxiety about being in public places.

People with stiff person syndrome may experience an increased rigidity and stiffness in the muscle in the later stages. This stiffness in the muscle can spread to other areas of the body, including the face.

This can affect muscles that are used for talking and eating. Muscles used for breathing can also be affected, which can be lead to a life-threatening issue.

Due to amphiphysin antibodies present in the body, SPS may increase the chances of getting cancer, such as;

  • Colon
  • Lung
  • Breast

Some individuals with SPS may be exposed to other autoimmune deficiencies, including:

  • Vitiligo
  • Diabetes
  • Pernicious anemia
  • Thyroid complications

Causes of stiff person syndrome

It’s still unknown what causes SPS. Experts think it’s genetics. You stand the chance of having the syndrome if someone in your family has suffered a form of autoimmune disease. These may include:

  • Vitiligo
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Type 1/2 diabetes
  • Thyroiditis

Autoimmune diseases attack healthy tissues present in the body for some unknown reasons. With stiff person syndrome, the spinal cord and the tissues in the brain are affected.

The condition also creates antibodies that target proteins that control muscle movements in the brain. These are referred to as GAD (glutamic acid decarboxylase antibodies). Stiff person syndrome commonly affects adults between the ages of 30 and 60.

It also affects women more than men.

Diagnosing SPS

Your doctor may have to go through your medical records and also perform a physical examination. Some tests may also be needed, which may include a blood test.

Your medical doctor may also order a screening test known as electromyography to check for muscular electrical activities. An MRI or a lumbar puncture might also be necessary.

Stiff person syndrome can also be diagnosed with epilepsy. It is sometimes mistaken for other neurological complications such as Parkinson’s disease and multiple sclerosis.


There is currently no cure for stiff person syndrome. Nonetheless, there are available treatments to help manage the condition. These treatments are administered to help control the condition and stop it from getting worse.

Stiffness and muscle spasms can be treated with any of the following medications:

  • Pain medications
  • Muscle relaxers
  • Tiagabine (anti-seizure medication)
  • Baclofen (muscle relaxer)
  • Gabapentin (for convulsions and nerve pain)
  • Benzodiazepines, which include clonazepam or diazepam. These are used to help with anxiety and to keep the muscles relaxed.

Some individuals with SPS can also experience symptom relief using the following:

  • Intravenous immunoglobulin can minimize the number of antibodies that target healthy tissues.
  • Plasmapheresis (involves the change of blood plasma with a new one to reduce the number of antibodies present in the body).
  • Another treatment method known as an autologous stem cell transplant can also be administered. This involves the removal and multiplication of the body’s bone marrow cells and blood before putting it back. This method is an experimental treatment that is considered after all other treatments have failed.
  • Other immunotherapies
  • Antidepressants such as SSRIs (selective trip take inhibitors) can be used to manage anxiety and depression. Prozac, Zoloft, and Paxil are also part of brands your medical doctor might prescribe. It’s important to note that finding the right brand often involves trials and errors.

Additionally, your medical doctor may suggest a physical therapist. Although a physical therapist can’t treat stiff person syndrome alone. Nonetheless, exercises may cause significant changes in the following:

  • Walking
  • Emotional well-being
  • Pain
  • Range of motion
  • Posture
  • Independence
  • Overall day-to-day activates

Your physical therapist should be able to guide you through relaxation and mobility exercises, depending on the severity of your symptoms. With luck and hard work, you should be able to notice some changes with the help of your physical therapist.


A person with SPS is more likely to fall due to a lack of reflexes and stability. Constant falls can increase the risk of having severe injuries, worst still, permanent disability. In some cases, the condition can spread and progress to other parts of the body.

There is presently no cure for stiff person syndrome. However, treatments are made available to help people with SPS manage their symptoms appropriately. Basically, it all depends on how well you respond well to treatment.

We all indeed respond to treatment differently. While some individuals respond positively to physical therapy and medications, others may not do as such.

It may be helpful to discuss how you’re feeling with your doctor. It’s also essential to present any new symptoms that you might be experiencing. Be sure to inform your doctor if you do not notice any improvements.

Are you experiencing SPS? What measures are you taking to control this condition? Are there tips or suggestions you’d like to share with us about stiff person syndrome? Kindly leave your comments in the comment section below.