Spinal Muscular Atrophy Awareness Month
August is Spinal Muscular Atrophy Awareness month (also known as SMA). SMA affects roughly 4 people in every 100,000 throughout the USA. SMA also highly affects some seniors who deal with inactivity due to physical, balance, cognitive, or any other challenges that prevent a person from activity. 1 in 50 people carry the disease, and 1 out of every 6,000 to 10,000 people develop SMA.
What is Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA)?
Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) refers to a group of genetic conditions that cause muscle weakness and atrophy in children and adults. Spinal Muscular Atrophy is defined as a disease that affects the body’s ability to control its own muscle movements by attacking and destroying the lower motor neurons. This disease is also commonly known as “muscle wasting.” We have nerves, known as motor nerves in the spinal cord which controls the muscles that are used for walking, crawling, breathing, head and neck control, and swallowing. SMA can be characterized by muscles that are “shrinking” due to extended inactivity. Please keep in mind though that SMA does not occur in all people who are inactive. Alternately, it is a genetic, progressive disease that directly impacts the motor neurons of the brainstem and spinal cord.
What are the causes of SMA?
As talked about above, SMA is defined as the loss of nerve cells in the spinal cord. These nerve cells are known as motor neurons and SMA is classified as a motor neuron disease. The most common form of SMA is caused by a mutation in the SMN1 gene on chromosome 5, which is responsible for creating a protein needed for healthy motor neurons. When your body lacks the SMN protein, the lower motor neurons lose vitality, which causes your muscles to waste away. The trunk and upper arms and legs are the most affected area and limbs by SMA disease.
What are the types of Spinal Muscular Atrophy?
There are four types of Spinal Muscular Atrophy:
- Type I: is also known as Werding-Hoffman disease. This form appears at birth or shortly after.
- Type II: is usually diagnosed between 6 and 12 months of age.
- Type III: is also called Kugleberg-Welander disease and develops between the ages of 2 and 17.
- Type IV: occurs mostly in adults between 30 and 50 years of age. While the symptoms of this form are less severe than the other forms, the challenges those face if they experience this condition can be more difficult and compromise their health and well-being.
- Symptoms of SMA Type IV may include:
- Twitching or muscle spasms
- Slow, but progressive muscle wasting
- Very slow decrease in the ability to walk or move lower limbs
- Progressive limb weakness (starting in thighs and upper arms)
- Cramping or marked stiffness in muscles
- Decreased reflexes in the deep tendons
How can you diagnose SMA?
Spinal muscular atrophy is a rare disease and often hard to diagnose unless your medical professional is familiar with the condition. Tests to diagnose SMA include one that measures nerve conduction velocity (the speed in which nerve signals travel along nerves) and one that measles the electrical activity in the muscles, called an electromyogram, or EMG. Nerve conduction velocity tests involve sensations that feel like mil;d electric shocks, and EMGs require short needles to be inserted into the muscles. Other ways to diagnose SMA is through blood testing to detect a specific gene or through a muscle biopsy.
What are the treatments of SMA and how can Pain Care help you?
There is no cure for spinal muscular atrophy, however treatment is aimed at managing symptoms and preventing complications. Physical therapy, strengthening and stretching at home exercises, and assistive devices such as support braces or orthotics are used to help these patients. Medication management is sometimes needed by using muscle relaxers to help with severe muscle spasms. Increased pain is significantly associated with those with SMA, such as neuropathic pain. Overall, studies suggest that SMA pain appears to be comparable to that of people with osteoarthritis or chronic low back pain.
At Pain Care, LLC our doctors stay up to date with the latest research and technologies to best understand individual needs for chronic pain. Each patient is treated with a personalized approach to give them the best possible care. Neuropathic pain can be treated in multiple ways using SCS technology. Contact us today to make an appointment for a consultation with one of our top pain specialists at Pain Care.