Before we take a look at a rare disease called Freidrich ataxia, or FA, let’s first understand the meaning of the word “ataxia.”
Ataxia includes loss or lack of muscle control and coordination. This impacts speech, swallowing, walking, and eye movements (such as blinking). It covers a broad spectrum of neurological impairments.
Freidrich ataxia is a hereditary genetic disease that is progressive in nature.
It slowly compromises the patient’s central nervous system. One of the most telling symptoms is heavily slurred speech and loss of motor control. Fortunately, it doesn’t impair cognitive function.
The onset of symptoms usually occurs when the patient is between the ages of five and 18. Parents of children with FA generally assemble a medical team that includes a primary care physician, a neurologist, and a cardiologist.
Orthopedic specialists may also be included if the patient develops scoliosis, which is fairly common in FA patients. Some patients also require physical therapy and the services of a physicatrist. To date, there is no cure, and no overall effective treatment for FA.
But this writer is holding onto hope because of the great strides being made in the field of gene therapy.
If your child has FA and you need support, or just want to communicate with other parents sharing your journey, contact the FA Parents’ Group–they welcome new members.
For more information, contact any of the organizations listed below: