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2020 Jun 12




Tongue Stiffness as Presentation of Antiphospholipid Syndrome: A Case Report.


Rajevac H, Steed K
Cureus. 2020 Jun 12; 12(6):e8584.
PMID: 32670719.


Antiphospholipid syndrome (APS) is a systemic autoimmune disorder with marked thrombotic and inflammatory features driven by the presence of antiphospholipid antibodies (APLA). Here, we report a case of APS with a rare, atypical manifestation and discuss a differential diagnosis. A 53-year-old male without significant past medical history presented with new onset of episodic tongue stiffness and dysarthria which lasted for about a minute over a period of three months. This was associated with intermittent right retro-orbital sharp pain radiating to the parietal area. He also reported swelling and stiffness of the third and fourth right proximal interphalangeal (PIP) joints lasting throughout the day. A physical exam revealed tongue fasciculations. As the MRI showed patchy white matter hyperintensities neurology initially suspected multiple sclerosis. However, cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) analysis including neuromyelitis optica (NMO) antibodies and oligoclonal antibodies was negative. Rheumatological work up was remarkable for positive antinuclear antibodies (ANA); anticardiolipin antibodies and lupus anticoagulant were positive 12 weeks apart. This, alongside with stable white matter changes on imaging was suspicious for an extra-criteria manifestation of antiphospholipid antibody syndrome. The most commonly described neurological manifestations of APS are headache, transient ischemic attack (TIA), and stroke. Tongue stiffness as an initial symptom is quite unusual and, to the best of our knowledge has not been reported in medical literature. In patients with isolated neurological findings of unclear etiology, an autoimmune disease such as APS should be considered, and appropriate diagnostic work up should not be postponed. Unfortunately, positive laboratory markers can have a wide differential diagnostic panel. In addition, APS may mimic many diseases both in clinical presentation and MRI findings thus making the correct diagnosis challenging. However, studies show that, unlike multiple sclerosis (MS), white matter changes in APS remain static during the course of the disease. Identification of atypical presentations of APS is critical as prompt and correct medical management can improve patients' quality of life and clinical outcomes.