Spinal muscle atrophy refers to a neurodegenerative genetic condition characterized by weak muscle tissue. It can affect adults as well as infants. As the disease progresses, it makes movement slower and reduces the patient’s control over voluntary movements. There is no known cure for this disease but there are a few common treatment procedures for spinal muscle atrophy that can help manage the condition.
Patients suffering from Spinal Muscle Atrophy usually have a mutated SMN1 gene due to which they do not produce sufficient survival motor neuron proteins. Medication given in this form of therapy boosts the effectiveness of another gene SMN2 to produce more SMN proteins and correct the deficiency. This helps slow down the progression of SMA-related symptoms and delays motor neuron death.
This is one of the most common treatment procedures for spinal muscle atrophy. It is aimed at managing muscle strength and maintaining the possible range of motion. It is important to note that physical therapy exercises should always be performed under the guidance of a therapist. The therapist may also recommend assistive equipment such as leg braces, shoe inserts, powered wheelchairs, and speech synthesizers. These devices allow the individual to live more independently and be active participants in the community.
Spinal Muscle Atrophy can weaken the muscles responsible for the expansion and contraction of the chest cavity while breathing. Patients may initially rely on the diaphragm to breathe. At a later stage, common treatment procedures for spinal muscle atrophy may include the use of an invasive or non-invasive ventilator to get sufficient oxygen into the body. The latter is a short-term solution while the former is a more permanent solution.
If the disease affects the muscles of the jaw and throat, chewing and swallowing food may be difficult. This will make it difficult to get adequate nutrition and hence special attention needs to be paid to the diet. In addition, other aids may also be required. For example, the weakening of the muscles may cause food to travel back from the stomach into the food pipe. In such cases, a feeding tube may be required to deliver essential nutrients directly into the stomach.
Along with the above common treatment procedures for spinal muscle atrophy, medication may also be prescribed to relieve specific symptoms or prevent known complications. For example, muscle relaxants may be prescribed to ease the stiffness in muscles. Similarly, medication may be prescribed to reduce the amount of saliva produced and jaw spasms. If the patient develops scoliosis, a special back brace may be needed to hold the spine in place.
The outlook of this condition depends largely on the severity of the patient’s symptoms. People with mild symptoms may require a lot of medical support but they should ideally be able to live a long, fruitful life. For the best results, the doctor, physical therapist, and the patient’s family must work together.