Four out of five people with a hidden brain condition that causes limb weakness or paralysis experience lasting physical difficulties.
Research to assess long-term effects of the disorder, called Functional Neurological Disorder (FND), found 80 per cent of patients still had symptoms in their arms and legs 14 years after initial diagnosis.
Experts, who tracked outcomes of more than 100 patients, hope the study – the largest of its kind – will help doctors provide realistic prognoses in future and encourage more work on treatment.
In their initial studies 14 years ago, researchers found that FND is as common and disabling as better known conditions, such as multiple sclerosis. It has, however, suffered from stigma because it cannot be seen on conventional brain scans.
Doctors often describe it as a ‘software’ problem of the brain rather than a ‘hardware’ one – a condition related to how the brain processes information rather than a physical defect in its structure.