Laura Waslo is passionate about the guitar, but in 2009 chronic widespread pain prevented her from playing.
"It was a burning pain in my legs and then also my feet, which were getting red and swollen all the time," Laura Waslo said.
Several doctors told Laura it was nerve damage from her diabetes, but no one could make the pain go away. That is until she met Dr. Anne Louise Oaklander who diagnosed Laura with autoimmune neuropathy.
"This is a particular type of widespread nerve damage that is different from the diabetic neuropathy," Anne Louise Oaklander, MD, PhD, Associate Professor of Neurology, HMS, Assistant in Pathology (Neuropathology), Massachusetts General Hospital said.
Although it's been diagnosed in adults, Dr. Oaklander's study of 41 patients found it also occurs in those under 21."Since no one knew what the cause of their pain and other symptoms were, there were no effective treatments," Dr. Oaklander said.
In addition to chronic pain, Laura experienced insomnia, blood pressure swings, and sometimes passed out when she stood up. Through skin biopsies, and heart and blood pressure tests, doctors discovered neuropathy in younger patients.
"We were seeing abnormal skin biopsy test results or abnormal autonomic function test results. These are things that previously had not been described in young patients," Dr. Max Klein, Instructor in Neurology, Massachusetts General Hospital said.
Laura's pain level dropped with steroid treatment followed by transfusion therapy.
"I feel great now. My symptoms pretty much disappeared," Laura explained.
Other symptoms of autoimmune neuropathy include—numbness, tingling, and decreased reflexes. Some patients say their widespread chronic pain was brought on by an earlier illness, infection, or injury.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CONTACT:
Anne Louise Oaklander, MD, PhD, FAAN, FANA
Associate Professor of Neurology, HMS
Assistant in Pathology (Neuropathology)
Massachusetts General Hospital