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What Do You Know About Spinal Muscular Atrophy?

September 20th, 2017

By: Jack Nicol

There are four known forms of spinal muscular atrophy. Type 1 is diagnosed in the first 6 months of life, while the second type is diagnosed between 7 and 18 months. Type 3 comes after that and also affects children. If your parent is diagnosed with spinal muscular atrophy in his or her late adult years, it's going to be type 4. Type 4 is the mildest form. It usually starts with a general sense of weak muscles and muscle twitches.

What is Spinal Muscular Atrophy?

Spinal muscular atrophy is a disorder where motor neurons in the spine fail and stop sending the message for muscles to contract. As a result, the muscles in the center of your body mass start to weaken. It can make it hard for people to stand for extended periods of time. The spine may start to curve. Muscles used for breathing, such as the diaphragm, may weaken and affect how well a person is able to breathe. Swallowing and bowel/bladder control can also be affected.

Tests to Expect

To determine if your parent has spinal muscular atrophy, your mom or dad's doctor will draw blood to look for an enzyme that indicates muscle deterioration. Genetic testing to look for chromosomes linked to the disease is another step. This is important because spinal muscular atrophy is genetic and caused by a gene mutation. If your parent has it, you could be a carrier of the mutated gene. If you don't develop the disease, your children could.

Treatments for Spinal Muscular Atrophy

There's no cure for spinal muscular atrophy. Most doctors recommend adults remain as active as they can tolerate. A heated pool is often one of the better ways to get daily exercise as it's easy on the joints. Physical therapy is also advised. 

Things to Watch For

If your mom or dad's throat muscles weaken, aspiration and choking can happen. Your parent shouldn't be left alone at meals. If you cannot personally be there for all meals, a family member, friend, or caregiver needs to be. Make sure foods are cut up into small pieces and chewed well before your mom or dad swallows. Try to limit them from eating quickly.

Your parent will need help around the house. Discuss the benefits of having a caregiver to help with transfers from the bed or shower. A senior care provider can help prepare meals, do weekly laundry, or assist with light housekeeping. 

If you or an aging loved one are considering senior care in Loxahatchee, FL, contact the caring staff at BrightStar Care of Jupiter. Call today (561) 741-1200.