Spinocerebellar ataxia or SCA, for short, is a progressive, degenerative, genetic disease with multiple types, each of which could be considered a disease in its own right. In a non-medical term, SCA is a degeneration or wasting (atrophy) of nerve cells. If this occurs in the cerebellum (the portion of the brain that is between the spine and the main large portion of the brain, since the cerebellum coordinates muscular movement (skeletal muscles), the victim loses muscle control of their skeletal muscles. It’s slightly similar to the ALS disease. According to the Peesh foundation site an estimated 150,000 people in the United States are diagnosed with Spinocerebellar Ataxia. And while there are about 35 different types of SCA, there are no known cure for this life taking disease.
SCA can also be hereditary, meaning if one parent has it, there’s a 50% chance that child will have the disease as well. This disease slowly progresses, meaning a person who has this won’t wake up one day and not be able to do anything for themselves. It starts out slow and over a course of time, will get worst. While there are no treatments to cure SCA, there are things a person can do to slow down the process, such as physical therapy to help maintain a level of independence through therapeutic exercise programs. Since there are so many types of SCA out there, not all types cause equally severe disability. In general, treatments are directed towards alleviating symptoms, not the disease itself.
The symptoms of SCA can range from tremor, difficulty eating or swallowing, loss of fine coordination of muscle movements leading to unsteady and clumsy motion, stiffness, and many more. But not everyone with SCA will experience and show the same symptoms others might show. Dealing with SCA can be very challenging and difficult for some and especially their loved ones. Your doctor might ask that you and the ones around you to keep a journal and write in it everyday, recording everything you have done that day, as a way to keep track of your prognosis. According to the University of Buffalo, there are six principles of training a physiologist must observe in order to maximise the help to the patient: Exercise should move from conscious practice to unconscious motions, exercise should gradually increase in complexity, the patient should progress from training with the eyes open to with the eyes closed, coordination is of prime importance, supportive and complimentary aids and implements should be utilized when necessary, and the patient should be able to utilize a training programmer at home. Some people go years before this deadly disease fully takes over, while for some it only takes a few months or so. No matter how long it takes, it’s always important to stay as positive as you can and not to give up, especially on physical therapy.