Are Your Neurological Symptoms Really Rheumatic Disease?

November 20, 2014 in Second Opinion  •  By Miles Varn
neurological symptoms of rheumatic disease

About 46 million people in the U.S. are living with rheumatic diseases. This class of illnesses – which include lupus, systemic vasculitis, ankylosing spondylitis, gout and various forms of arthritis – impacts the joints, soft tissues and immune system. Some of these diseases may also cause neurological symptoms, such as headache or seizures.

If these neurological symptoms are the only ones that your doctor sees, you may be misdiagnosed, which could mean that you receive unnecessary, ineffective treatments as your medical condition grows worse. However, getting a second opinion may help.

Which neurological symptoms crossover with rheumatic diseases?
In a report published in the journal Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports, researchers from Loyola Medicine discussed how easily doctors can misdiagnose these rheumatic diseases as neurological diseases:

  • Lupus. The immune systems of people who have lupus act abnormally and attack healthy tissues. People with this condition often experience problems in their joints, skin, heart, lungs, kidneys, blood vessels and brain. The study authors also noted that more than half of lupus patients experience headaches, and one-third of patients get migraines. In 1.5 percent of headaches among lupus patients, the source of the pain will be untraceable, and symptoms won’t respond to narcotics. Additionally, seizures and mood disorders can each affect 20 percent of people with lupus. Symptoms attributable to lupus-induced psychosis may be misdiagnosed as schizophrenia.
  • Systemic vasculitis. People with systemic vasculitis experience inflammation in their blood vessels because of abnormal attacks from the immune system. This can potentially damage organs and lead to headaches, seizures, neuropathies and stroke-like symptoms. About one-third of systemic vasculitis patients will have to deal with residual neurological impairments.
  • Ankylosing spondylitis. This inflammatory disease impacts the spine, hips, shoulders and knees. Patients may also have headaches, dysfunction of the cerebellum and brainstem, seizures and other neurological problems.

If you’re experiencing any of the neurological symptoms that may also be present in rheumatic disease and your doctor diagnoses you with a neurological condition, you may want to consider getting a second opinion. A second opinion can help you be sure that your diagnosis is accurate. Talking to a personal health advisor is an easy way to get connected to an experienced physician for a second opinion. With that information in hand, your physician can develop a treatment plan that’s tailored for the medical condition you face.