In her book Tietze’s Syndrome: Causes, Tests, and Treatments, author Stephanie Kenrose insists that her Tietze Syndrome was caused by a virus. Could she be right?
What the author says
Kenrose claims to have “found the answers” after two decades of battling Tietze syndrome. She insists her Tietze syndrome was the result of a shipboard virus, presenting anecdotal evidence that a friend who was also on the ship with her caught Tietze at the same time, and that a boyfriend she was living with developed the disease five weeks after she did.
Personally, I’m wary of anyone who claims to have all the answers. That’s part of the reason I generally research things like Tietze syndrome and try to verify what I find in multiple sources. It’s one thing to try a tip offered by someone who has suffered from the same issue. It’s another to accept anecdotal evidence as fact, especially when the story is provided by someone who is selling something. It also bothered me that Kenrose declared that the other two people also had Tietze syndrome, even though she says it took her years to be diagnosed because so few doctors can diagnose Tietze syndrome properly.
Kenrose’s arguments didn’t convince me, but they did make me wonder. Could a virus cause Tietze syndrome?
What the doctors say
There’s not much medical information available about Tietze syndrome and a lot of what is presented is contradictory. The National Institute of Health’s Genetic and Rare Disease Center states that there is no established medical consensus as to what exactly causes Tietze Syndrome. Prior injuries, vitamin deficiencies and viruses are among the things mentioned as possible causes or contributing factors. Doctors have also noticed that Tietze syndrome sometimes appears as a secondary issue in patient with psoriatic arthritis and fibromyalgia.
There aren’t many medical studies of Tietze. Those that do exist feature small samples, probably because of the condition’s rarity. One report published by Dr. A.K. Geddes is based on the records of 22 patients, all Canadian soldiers, who he’d treated for Tietze syndrome. While only four of the patients reported minor chest trauma, all of the patients he treated had respiratory diseases. Some had a respiratory virus in the month preceding the onset of Tietze syndrome; some were actively sick when the Tietze syndrome appeared; the remainder developed it within a few days of being diagnosed Tietze syndrome.
The doctor noted the connection between a virus and Tietze syndrome, but did not make any conclusions about cause and effect. In my admittedly inexpert opinion, this study seems to suggest that a virus may be factor in the development of Tietze syndrome, but that it’s not only factor. If a virus is the sum cause of Tietze syndrome, why didn’t all, or at least most, of the soldiers who caught the respiratory bug circulating on the military base develop Tietze syndrome?
Is Tietze syndrome caused by a virus? I was sick with a summer flu that tormented my husband’s workplace about a month before Tietze syndrome roared into my life. But, while I wasn’t the only one who battled that particular flu, I’m the only one who has been diagnosed with Tietze syndrome. Maybe it’s because I don’t want to think of myself as some type of Typhoid Mary, but I don’t think a virus can take the full blame as the cause of my Tietze syndrome. Personally, I suspect Tietze syndrome is the result of a combination of factors. I believe that, like many diseases, Tietze syndrome requires several conditions to be just right in order to develop.
Self diagnosing something as serious as chest pain is not smart. If you are concerned that you may have Tietze syndrome, please see your doctor.
Looking for more tips on living with Tietze syndrome? Click here.