A Minnesota woman misdiagnosed with cerebral palsy (CP) nearly 30 years ago has learned that her symptoms could have been managed by taking a pill, kfor.com reported.
Jean Abbott had coped with muscle spasms, weakness and immobility since she was a child. When the Plymouth, Minn., woman was 4, doctors diagnosed her with spastic diplegia, a form of CP that causes muscle stiffness in the legs and often clumsiness in the hands. According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), people with spastic diplegia have legs that move similar to the arms of a scissor due to tightness in certain leg muscles.
Abbott saw multiple doctors seeking treatment for her abnormal gait, but none of them refuted her original doctor’s diagnosis: She had spastic diplegia, a condition for which there is no cure. She underwent painful surgeries to help her muscles, according to The Mighty, a website that publishes inspirational stories, including those of people suffering from disability and disease.
Abbott learned of her true diagnosis— dopa-responsive dystonia— at age 33, when she felt she was overmedicated and finally sought another opinion from a new doctor.
According to the NIH, dopa-responsive dystonia involves involuntary muscle contractions, tremors and other uncontrolled movements. Unlike spastic diplegia, symptoms of the condition can improve progressively by taking medication known as L-Dopa. Dopa-responsive dystonia affects about 1 million people worldwide, but that number may be higher due to misdiagnoses of other movement disorders, according to the NIH.
Two days after Abbott began taking L-Dopa, her gait was noticeably improved and her pain mitigated.
“I hadn’t stood without help for a decade,” she told The Mighty. “It was at that moment I realized the medication was working, and my life had changed.”