Spinal muscle atrophy refers to a set of genetic disorders that prevent a person from normally controlling his muscle movements. This happens when nerve cells diminish in the spinal cord and the brain. So, the condition is essentially a motor neuron disease and a neurological condition. It causes severe muscle weakness and wasting, making it very hard for the patient to move around or control his head movements. While the treatment options for spinal muscle atrophy will not be able to eradicate the disease altogether, there are some new therapies and medicines that are capable of slowing down its progress.
Different types of treatment options for spinal muscle atrophy
There can be various types of spinal muscle atrophy and these variations are because of symptoms and ways in which they can affect one’s quality of life and life expectancy. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders there are 4 main types:
- SMA Type 1 will affect physical functions but not intellectual functions. It is a serious condition appearing in children below the age of 6 months. Common symptoms are muscle twitching and weakness, feeding difficulty, inability to move legs and arms, spinal curvature, among others.
- SMA Type 2 symptoms appear between 6-18 months and while a child can sit with this condition, he is usually unable to walk or stand up. Unless you treat the condition, the person may not be able to sit later. Treatment with DMTs is known to have positive results and people with this condition typically survive into teenage years.
- SMA Type 3, also called Kugelberg-Welander disease, it sets in after 18 months and the patient can develop scoliosis, muscle shortening and joints become rigid. Patients will experience difficulty in running or climbing steps although they can walk. People with this condition can expect to have a normal life span when there is proper treatment with DMTs.
- Adult SMA or Type 4 is rather rare and starts after 21 years of age. Here, the patient experiences moderate proximal weakness or the muscles that are nearest to the body’s central part are the ones most affected.
Treatment options for SMA are very limited and there is no cure for this condition as of now. You cannot prevent it also since the condition is inherited. But, treatments like the following can help with the condition:
- DMTs will help to reduce the intensity of symptoms and also improve the outlook of SMA patients. For instance, the FDA has approved 2 medicines for SMA treatment, and there are many more to follow.
- Spinraza is a medication that can treat different types of spinal muscular atrophy. Here, the doctor will need to inject this medicine over a period of two months, and follow-ups are scheduled every 4 months. Spinraza can slow down the disease’s progression but how effective it will be can vary from one SMA case to another.
- Zolgensma is a kind of gene therapy that is meant for kids below 2 years of age. Here, a single dose injection is given. Both Soinraza and Zolgensma have side-effects.
Today research is being done on alternative therapies for SMA treatment like gene replacement therapy. Assistive devices like powered wheelchairs, ventilators, and exercises like water exercises can also help in the improvement of strength.