Does your child face difficulty rolling over or holding their head up? Have you noticed your child struggling to stand or sit on their own? Do they have trouble breathing?
If you have observed any of such symptoms in your child, he or she might have Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA).
Keep reading to learn about SMA, its types, symptoms, and SMA therapy, and more!
What is Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA)?
Spinal muscular atrophy is a genetic neuromuscular disease leading muscles to weaken and waste away. This disease is quite common among children making it hard for them to use their muscles. Children with SMA disease lose a specific kind of nerve cell in their spinal cord (motor neurons that control the movement of muscles). Due to the breakdown of these nerve cells in the spinal cord and brain, the brain is unable to send messages that control muscle movements.
As a result of this health condition, muscles become weak or even shrink, causing trouble for children to control their head movements, sit on their own, or even walk independently. In most cases, children with SPA also struggle with breathing and swallowing as their condition worsens. Spinal muscular therapy or spinal muscular atrophy therapy comes handy in this condition.
Types & Symptoms of SMA
Below are the spinal muscular atrophy symptoms-
- Type 0 (Rarest & Severe SMA) – This rarest SMA develops when one is still pregnant, causing the fetus to move less in the mother’s womb. Such babies tend to have weak muscles, joint problems, and trouble breathing. Due to severe breathing issues, they do not often survive.
- Type 1 (Severe SMA) – Children with this type of SMA cannot support their heads or are unable to sit on their own. Besides, they have floppy legs and arms and trouble swallowing. Most children with type 1 remain unable to live beyond the age of 2 due to weakened muscles leading to breathing problems.
- Type 2 (Moderate to Severe)- Also known as “Chronic Infantile SMA,” this disease affects the legs of children (6 to 18 months old). In this type, children can sit, stand, and walk with assistance.
- Type 3 (Mildest) – It is also known as juvenile SMA or Kugelberg-Welander disease. Children with this type of SMA can walk and stand without any assistance. However, they have difficulty climbing stairs, running, or getting up from a chair. Also, the symptoms start showing up from the age of 2 to 17 years.
- Type 4 (Adult) – This is one of the common SMA symptoms among adults, characterized by muscle twitching, weakness, or breathing problems. In this condition, only the legs and upper arms are affected.
Therapies for Spinal Muscular Atrophy
Though there is no spinal muscular atrophy treatment; however, with early intervention and intensive therapy, symptoms of SMA can be improved to help children live longer and independently.
possible SMA treatments are there to treat symptoms of SMA include:
Occupational Therapy (OT) and Physical Therapy help improve the children’s posture while preventing slow muscle weakness and joint immobility. Various strengthening and stretching exercises help increase the range of motion and reduce spasticity while improving circulation.
Similarly, Speech Therapy also facilitates children with SMA in improving their breathing, chewing, and swallowing problems with feeding therapy.
Pediatric therapy also recommends using assistive devices like speech synthesizers, braces, supports, orthotics, and wheelchairs to help children enhance their independence.
Note: Always remember that each child with SMA has a different experience, and regardless of the severity of their mobility issues, their intelligence remains unaffected.