Information on Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) taken from NHS site.
Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a genetic disease that causes muscle weakness and progressive loss of movement.
It occurs due to deterioration in the nerve cells (motor neurones) connecting the brain and spinal cord to the body’s muscles.
As the link between the nerves and muscles breaks down, the muscles that are used for activities such as crawling, walking, sitting up, and moving the head become progressively weaker and shrink (atrophy). Mental abilities are unaffected by SMA.
There are a number of different conditions which are called SMA. The term is usually used for the most common form, which is caused by a genetic problem where one copy of the genetic error is inherited from each parent.
Classification of spinal muscular atrophy
SMA is classified according to the age at which symptoms develop and how severe they are:
Type I – the most severe type, develops in babies less than six months old
Type II – less severe than type I, affects babies 6-18 months old
Type III – the mildest type affecting children, usually affects children around the age of three
Type IV – affects adults
In the most severe cases (Types I and II), fatal respiratory problems often develop during childhood. Life expectancy is usually unaffected in more mild cases (Types III and IV).
Treatment and support
There is no cure for SMA, but treatment and support can help to manage the condition. Depending on its severity, treatment may involve:
exercises and equipment to improve mobility and breathing
feeding tubes and nutrition advice
bracing or surgery to treat curvature of the spine (scoliosis)
A range of healthcare professionals are involved in the care of SMA, including doctors who specialise in neurology, physiotherapists, occupational therapists, and speech and language therapists.
Testing for spinal muscular atrophy
If there are concerns your children may inherit SMA, for example if you have a family history of the condition, genetic testing may be recommended. This involves checking a sample of your blood for the genetic problem responsible for the condition.
It's also possible to check an unborn child for this genetic problem during pregnancy, using tests such as chorionic villus sampling (CVS) and amniocentesis.
If a child shows typical signs of SMA, such as obvious muscle weakness, a blood test can usually confirm a diagnosis.