Weak muscles can occur over the years for many reasons such as nutritional deficiencies, lack of exercise, or a medical condition.
A new study suggests that experiencing severe muscle weakness in all four limbs could be a warning sign of Sjögren’s syndrome.
Sjögren’s syndrome is an autoimmune condition that causes a patient to experience dry eyes and mouth. Other organs may be affected too – for example, the kidneys causing them to excrete more acidic urine.
Other problems experienced in patients include paralysis, arrhythmia, weakness in cranial muscles, and respiratory arrest.
For the study, doctors observed a 73-year old patient who experienced severe muscle weakness in all four limbs. Initial tests uncovered the woman had very low potassium levels and supplementing potassium failed to increase levels.
After being referred to another hospital, doctors uncovered the woman had COPD and was experiencing progressive muscle weakness and fatigue over the last two months. The woman also complained of constant constipation and dry eyes over the last year.
Physical examination revealed dry mucosa, which is the membrane that lines the mouth and nose cavities. The woman was still experiencing weak quadricep muscles.
This led doctors to diagnose the woman with distal renal tubular acidosis (RTA), which is a condition where the kidneys cannot properly remove blood acids from urine, which leads to acidosis.
Further analysis of the patient revealed excess antinuclear antibodies (ANA), rheumatoid factor, and anti-Ro/SSA antibodies, which is consistent with a diagnosis of Sjögren’s syndrome. This allowed for proper treatment to be administered to restore potassium levels.
Although the woman’s potassium levels remained stable for a few weeks, later analysis revealed damage to the kidneys such as inflammation and scarring. The researchers wrote, “Our report emphasizes that although Sjögren syndrome is most often associated with chronic sicca [dryness] symptoms, it may present for the first time with extraglandular manifestations which may be life threatening.”
The case study reveals that although a key characteristic of Sjögren syndrome is dryness, muscle weakness and potassium levels are also key indicators.
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