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What is Parsonage-Turner syndrome

Parsonage-Turner syndrome, also called brachial neuritis, is characterized by the sudden onset of shoulder and upper arm pain followed by marked upper arm weakness or atrophy. Individuals may present with the condition several weeks after an injury, infection or immunization, or in the absence of an obvious inciting event. Treatment is symptomatic and may include pain relievers and physical therapy. Although affected individuals may experience paralysis of the affected areas that lasts for months or even years, the prognosis is generally favorable with most individuals experiencing complete recovery within 2 years.

Parsonage Turner syndrome (PTS) is characterized by the sudden onset of shoulder and upper arm pain followed by progressive (worsening over time) weakness and/or atrophy of the affected area. The pain is felt along the path of one or more nerves and often has no obvious physical cause. The network of nerves involved in this syndrome is called the brachial plexus and it controls movement and sensation in the shoulders and arms. The cause is still unknown (idiopathic). However, researchers believe that most cases are due to an autoimmune response following exposure to an illness or environmental factor. Suspected triggers include viral and bacterial infections, surgery, vaccinations, injury, childbirth, strenuous exercise, certain medical procedures, and various health conditions. Treatment is symptomatic and may include pain relievers, corticosteroids and physical therapy.[1][2]

PTS is one of two forms of neuralgic amyotrophy. The other form is hereditary and is caused by mutations in the SEPT9 gene in about 85% of cases.

Parsonage Turner syndrome is usually characterized by the sudden onset of severe pain in the shoulder and upper arm, which is often described as sharp, aching, burning, stabbing, or throbbing. In some cases, the pain may extend to the neck, lower arm and/or hand on the affected side. Rarely, both sides of the body are involved. Affected people typically experience constant pain that may become worse with movement. Intense pain can last from a few hours to several weeks, at which point the pain usually begins to subside. However, mild pain may continue for a year or longer.[1][2] As the pain subsides, it typically is replaced by progressive weakness of the affected area, ranging from mild weakness to nearly complete paralysis. There may also be muscle wasting (atrophy), absent or reduced reflexes, or loss of sensation.[1][2]

This information is provided by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD).

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