Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA): Types, Symptoms & Treatment

Spinal Muscular Atrophy, better known as SMA is a group of genetic disorders where people cannot control the movement of their muscles. Owing to the loss of nerve cells in the brain stem and the spinal cord, people find it difficult to control their involuntary actions. Diagnosed under a neurological condition, Spinal Muscular Atrophy is a type of motor neuron disease. 

According to studies conducted by the Genetics Home Reference, more than 8000 to 10,000 people suffer from spinal muscular atrophy across the globe. Spinal muscular atrophy generates a higher tendency of muscle wasting and frailty where patients encounter problems controlling their actions. It may be challenging for people with spinal muscular atrophy to rise, stand, walk, or even control their heads. In some cases, people also find it difficult to breathe and swallow. Certain kinds of spinal muscular atrophy are present from birth, however, others develop later in life.

Types of Spinal Muscular Atrophy 
There are different types of Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA) that majorly depend on the severity and types of symptoms. They also differ in terms of the occurrence of symptoms and the way they affect life expectancy and the nature of life for a patient. Broadly, SAM is of 4 types, including, SMA Type 01, Type 02, Type 03, and Adult SMA (Type 04.) 

SMA Type 01:
Type 01 or Werdnig-Hoffmann disease is a severe condition that generally appears in kids and affects kids before turning 6 months. A child born with faint breathing conditions or fatal breathing issues is considered under Type 01 SMA. A doctor can easily detect Type 01 SMA before the birth of the child. If detected after birth, the child will show symptoms including muscle feebleness and twitching, a reduction of strength to move the limbs, difficulty nursing, and, with time curvature of the spine. 

SMA Type 02:
Type 02 SMA occurs in children at the age of 6 to 18 months. The infant suffering from SMA Type 02 may showcase inabilities to rise, walk or stand. Certain kids also lose their ability to sit with age. SMA Type 02 occurs with or without breathing problems that may affect the life expectancy of the kid. SMA Type 02 can be treated with the help of DMTs. 

SMA Type 03:
Also called as Kugelberg-Welander disease, SMA Type 03 appears in kids aged 18 months. The common symptoms in kids with SMA Type 03 include contractures, scoliosis, shortening of tendons or muscles and lack of movement. SMA Type 03 can be treated easily with the help of DMTs which can also increase the life expectancy of the kid.  

Adult SMA (SMA Type 04):
Adult SMA occurs in people aged more than 21 years. Adult SMA generally causes common mild to moderate SMA symptoms like proximal instability, weakness, and more. Adult SMA doesn’t affect life expectancy can be easily treated with prescription medicines. 

Symptoms of Spinal Muscular Atrophy
Common symptoms of Spinal Muscular Atrophy include: 
– Muscle weakness
– Muscle twitching
– Loss of breath
– Difficulty swallowing
– Change in the shape of the limbs and spine
– Changes in the chest due to muscle weakness
– Inability to stand, or walk
– Problems sitting 

Treatments for Spinal Muscular Atrophy 
There are no specific treatments available for Spinal Muscular Atrophy. However, experts sewar by these most common treatments followed by medical practitioners: 
– Medication: DMTs can help people fight the symptoms by prescribing medication and drugs that can lower the severity of the pain from the symptoms. 
– Assistive Therapy: Physical therapy plays a crucial role in helping children and people suffering from SMA fight the symptoms. Physical therapy including water therapy assisted swimming, physiotherapy and wheelchair sports to eliminate stiffness and weakness in muscles. 

SMA is a highly genetic condition that can affect kids as well as adults, depending on its type. It is impossible to prevent Spinal Muscular Atrophy, but physical therapy, medication and other procedures can turn a person’s life into active life.