2 posts tagged “excessive yawning”

It’s been two years!! ALS Community Report

Posted March 17th, 2008 by

PatientsLikeMe was born of a passion to provide the best tools for patients to participate in their own care, share experiences and change the way medical research is done.Thanks to our members and the dedication of our growing team, our first community, ALS, has now been open to the public for two years! The community includes over 1650 patients, the U.S. members represent over 4% of all the ALS patients in the States.

Over three quarters of our members have entered substantive information about their treatment history and status. Each time a member adds information, that information benefits how other people care for themselves and heightens how we as a community contribute to medical knowledge and drug discovery.

Already we have published exciting findings from our community. For example, hundreds of ALS patients completed Paul Wick’s survey on Excessive Yawning and the results were published in a psychiatry journal (Acta Psychiatica Scandinavica). Another exciting development in ALS is first real time drug study – on the use of Lithium in ALS. More published and presented research will soon be featured on our blog and in a new section on the site. Each project demonstrates how we, as a community, can conduct research quickly and easily to accelerate the pace of gathering and disseminating new knowledge. SO THANK YOU.

Lithium Re - Screen shot

To show you how the research process works and to celebrate our second anniversary, we have put together a report on our ALS community. In it we observe that the community is a good one to study in that it looks a lot like the ALS patient population at large. As is true for ALS generally, there are 3 men for each 2 women in the community and mostly sporadic cases (8% hereditary, 92% sporadic). And, PatientsLikeMe members experience all types of onset with the most common being leg and arm onset (39% and 37% respectively). The only real difference is that site members are a little younger than the average (48.4 at onset on the site compared to 55 generally). In the report, we also looked at how different ways to better understand ALS and connect patients. In the figure below, we look at the relationship between age at onset and onset type. Separating each age group, we see whether different types of ALS present themselves at different times of life. This can contribute to scientific understanding of the disease. Arm onset appears to affect slightly younger people than bulbar and leg onset. Also, when each number in the chart is a link on the site, it will help you locate others like you and of interest to you. See the next figure. Figure 1 We also report early stage research of our own. Specifically, we look at how patients are utilizing health services and how our members with different types of onset are doing over time. One surprising finding is how long some people report between experiencing their first ALS symptom and receiving a diagnosis. In the figure below, the most common length of time between onset and diagnosis was 12 – 18 months. There are also a number of patients who did not receive a diagnosis for several years. We are going to do some more research into these results.

Lastly, we begin to look at how ALS differs by onset. We see from our user reported Functional Rating Scale that bulbar onset patients experience a faster decline than users with arm or leg onset. People with bulbar onset experience the same level of decline in 8 months as leg and arm onset patients experience in 16 months.

Through member participation, we are gathering the information we need to better understand the course and characteristics of ALS. At the same time, we are creating methods to use patient supplied data to discover and evaluate the effects of new possible treatments. If you are an ALS patient or caregiver, please take a look at the full report (Note: you must be a registered user).

PatientsLikeMe member JeanaFrost

Excessive Yawning or Constant Yawning in ALS/MND

Posted July 7th, 2007 by

The first thing we experience about yawning is an urge to do so, one that can be so hard to suppress that we end up gulping down an extra serving of air when we’re trying to appear interested, or polite, or awake. But what if you yawned even if you weren’t tired, or bored? What if you got attacks of yawning six, seven, eight times in a row that you couldn’t stop? This can be a problem for some patients with ALS, and it’s made worse by the fact that due to weak jaw muscles they could dislocate their jaw.

Excessive Yawning - Constant Yawning


That’s why I was particularly interested when a news report on PatientsLikeMe listed “increased yawning” as a symptom of ALS. It occurred to me then that we had in front of us the perfect way to investigate excessive yawning in more detail. The first step was to set up “excessive yawning” as a primary symptom in ALS, meaning that all new members would be rating whether they felt it was mild, moderate, or severe. Coincidentally, a paper had just come out which reported two patients (not with ALS) with excessive yawning after being prescibred an SSRI antidepressant drug. We now had a couple of different hypotheses we could test out; first that yawning in ALS was associated with respiratory funciton, second that it was associated with SSRI use, and third that it might be something to do with emotional lability. I took the new publication as an opportunity to write a letter to the editor on the subject. I wrote:

254 patients (47%) completed the survey on excessive yawning. Excessive yawning was reported to be absent in 75 patients (30%) mild in 75 (30%), moderate in 81 (32%), and severe in 22 (9%). Using Spearman’s Rho there was no correlation between severity of yawning and age (r = −0.63, P = 0.329, n = 244) months since diagnosis (r = −0.032, P = 0.619, n = 250), or the last recorded measurement of forced vital capacity (r = −0.136, P = 0.99, n = 148). There was no association between yawning severity and anti-depressant usage (χ2 = 3.269, P = 0.352). However, there was an association between yawning severity and site of onset (χ2 = 18.705, P = 0.028). Patients with a bulbar onset of disease were more likely (57%) to have moderate or severe yawning than patients with an arm onset (42%) or leg onset (31%).

So, from this data it looks like we can reject hypothesis one (breathing) and hypothesis two (SSRI use). But what about emotional lability? The reason I thought it might be a factor is that, much like uncontrollable laughter and crying, people yawned even when they weren’t sleepy and had difficulty with inhibition. Emotional lability is also found to be much more common in the bulbar-onset form of ALS relative to limb onset forms. Our own stats show a moderate but significant correlation between the two symptoms (r=~0.3) , and at the recent ALS/MND International Symposium in Toronto one of the speakers mentioned that they also consider yawning a sign of lability.

Why is all of this important? For one thing, the fact that yawning can be painful for ALS patients means we should try and stop it, but our discussions on PatientsLikeMe brought to light another reason entirely: people were losing friends because of it as they were intepreting their frequent yawning as a sign of boredom or rudeness! So, my interest now is for two things to happen; first for patients and healthcare professionals to be more sensitive to the presence of excessive yawning and clarify to patients that it can be a symptom, and second for researchers to investigate potential treatments that might target emotional lability and excessive yawning in order to improve the quality of life of our patients.