Spinocerebellar Degeneration, also known as Spinocerebellar Ataxia or SCA, is a progressive disease that can affect the spine, the cerebellum, the nervous system and the muscles. Spinocerebellar Ataxia refers to a group of disorders, as opposed to a specific diagnosis.
Those who suffer from SCA know there is no cure. All they are able to do in most cases is treat the more common symptoms which can include stiffness, muscle tremors, sleeping disorders and depression, to name but a few.
SCA is neither gender specific nor is it age specific, which means the symptoms could appear in anyone at any time. Initial symptoms could also include (but are not limited to) the lack of hand-eye co-ordination, a speech impairment, irregular or jerky movements, temporary paralysis in the lower limb muscles and a deformed spine.
Patients may need mobility assistance therefore most make use of crutches or a wheelchair. Some may need help eating and others may need help writing and using their hands. Some may even use communication devices to help them to speak.
As mentioned, this disease is not characterised by any one specific symptom, it has a number of effects but ideally all of them centre on the patient's motor skills.
Spinocerebellar Degeneration is due to a genetic mutation. DNA passes from one generation to another. In this disease, nucleotides (a group of molecules that, when linked together, become the building blocks of DNA) repeat more often than they do in healthy people. For example, three repeated nucleotides are known as a 'trinucleotide repeat'. In this case a mutated form of protein is the result, which leads to symptoms of disease.
SCA is either inherited or acquired. Inherited Spinocerebellar Degeneration is present in all cells in the body. Acquired Spinocerebellar Degeneration can form spontaneously or due to environmental factors. For example, a stroke, a tumour or multiple sclerosis can lead to developing Ataxia.
Perhaps the biggest problem with this disease is that it can so easily be misdiagnosed. For example, a vitamin B deficiency, dementia, or Parkinson's disease could be the diagnosis given when in fact the patient has Spinocerebellar Ataxia. Hence a thorough examination is vital.
Although there is no cure for hereditary SCA, the symptoms that characterise this disease are treatable, which can prevent further degeneration of the cerebellum. The treatments can include drugs, vitamin supplements and therapies.
Due to the fact that SCA sufferers know that this disease is not curable, it is important to show them utmost care. The discomforts and frustrations experienced by SCA sufferers are often extensive. Friends and family members must show their support at all times, helping the patient to live an as close to normal life as possible.
Each patient will soon learn their limitations. The important thing will be for friends and family members to help them to feel comfortable, cheerful and wanted. Unconditional love has always proven itself as a healer.