Spinocerebellar ataxia

What causes spinocerebellar ataxia?

Mutations in many different genes are known to cause the different types of spinocerebellar ataxia (SCA). For some types, the gene known to cause it has been identified, while in others, the genetic cause is still unknown (about 40% to 25% of the cases).

Some types of SCA inherited in an autosomal dominant manner are caused by trinucleotide repeat expansions. A trinucleotide repeat is a segment of DNA that is repeated a number of times. It is normal for these repeats to exist and they typically do not cause any problems. However, a greater than normal number of repeats can interfere with the function of the gene, resulting in a genetic condition. Trinucleotide repeats are unstable and can change in length when passed from parent to child. An increased number of repeats often leads to an earlier age of onset and more severe disease.

Last updated on 05-01-20

How is spinocerebellar ataxia diagnosed?

A diagnosis of spinocerebellar ataxia (SCA) is often suspected when certain signs and symptoms, such as a poorly coordinated gait (walk) and uncoordinated hand/finger movements, are present. Genetic testing is the best way to confirm SCA and identify the specific type, especially when a person also has family members with similar features. However, this is only an option if the disease- causing gene for that particular type of SCA has been identified. At this time, the genetic cause of some of the types is currently unknown; in these cases, imaging studies such as computed tomography (CT scan) and/or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI scan) may be necessary to establish a diagnosis. A CT scan is an imaging method that uses x-rays to create pictures of cross-sections of the body, while an MRI scan uses powerful magnets and radio waves to create pictures of the brain and surrounding nerve tissues. Both of these imaging methods can be used to identify brain abnormalities found in people with SCA.

Last updated on 05-01-20

Is genetic testing available for spinocerebellar ataxia?

Genetic testing is available for many different genes known to cause spinocerebellar ataxia (SCA). Carrier testing for at-risk relatives and prenatal testing are possible if the disease-causing mutations in the family are known.

For some types of SCA, the genetic cause is still unknown. Genetic testing is not available for families with these types of SCA.

The Genetic Testing Registry (GTR) is a centralized online resource for information about genetic tests. The intended audience for the GTR is health care providers and researchers. Patients and consumers with specific questions about a genetic test should contact a health care provider or a genetics professional. Please see a list of laboratories offering the genetic test for SCA.

Last updated on 05-01-20

Is spinocerebellar ataxia inherited?

Spinocerebellar ataxia can be inherited in an autosomal dominant fashion.

In autosomal dominant conditions, one mutated copy of the responsible gene in each cell is enough to cause signs or symptoms of the condition. When a person with an autosomal dominant condition has children, each child has a 50% (1 in 2) risk to inherit the mutated copy of the gene from the affected parent.

Last updated on 05-01-20

What is the long-term outlook for people with spinocerebellar ataxia?

The long-term outlook (prognosis) for people with spinocerebellar ataxia (SCA) varies. Disease progression and severity often depend on the type of SCA.

Most available information on the prognosis of SCA is based on the four most common types: SCA1, SCA2, SCA3 and SCA6. People affected by one of these types of SCA usually require a wheelchair by 10-15 years after the onset of symptoms. Many will eventually need assistance to perform daily tasks.

Last updated on 05-01-20

How might spinocerebellar ataxia be treated?

There is no known cure for spinocerebellar ataxia (SCA). The best treatment options for SCA vary by type and often depend on the signs and symptoms present in each person. The most common symptom of SCA is ataxia (a condition in which coordination and balance are affected). Physical therapy can help strengthen muscles, while special devices (e.g., cane, crutches, walker, or wheelchair) can assist in mobility and other activities of daily life. Many people with SCA have other symptoms in addition to the ataxia such as tremors, stiffness, muscle spasms, and sleep disorders; medications or other therapies may be suggested for some of these symptoms. One report described some improvement in the symptoms with zolpidem 10 mg in four out of five family members with SCA type 2, and a trial of 20 patients with SCA3 found that varenicline led to improvement in some, but not all of the symptoms.

Last updated on 05-01-20

Name: National Ataxia Foundation 600 Highway 169 South Suite 1725
Minneapolis, MN, 55426, United States
Phone: +1-763-553-0020 Fax : +1-763-553-0167 Email: naf@ataxia.org Url: https://ataxia.org/
Bird TD. Hereditary Ataxia Overview GeneReviews. November 26, 2014; Reference Link Opal P & Zoghbi HY. The spinocerebellar ataxias UpToDate. November 18, 2014; Reference Link

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