October is Friedreich’s Ataxia (FA or FRDA) and movement disorders month. Movement disorders are caused by disease or damage to various parts of the brain and affect over 10 million people in the United States. Most are classified as neurological conditions and cause involuntary or abnormal movement within the body. Movement disorders cover a wide array of diseases and are categorized by those that cause excessive movement and those that slow down and impede movement.
Friedreich’s Ataxia is an autosomal recessive genetic disorder, meaning that it is passed on from both parents. The disease affects about 1 in every 50,000 people in the United States. FA is triggered by a DNA mutation that causes the body to produce too much trinucleotide (GAA). Normal levels of GAA in the human body range from 8 to 30 copies but those with Friedreich’s ataxia have been known to have as many as 1,000. As the disorder advances, brain and spinal cord structure begin to deteriorate causing gradual loss of coordination and sensory function.
FA is diagnosed using several tests including: x-ray, muscle biopsy, and nerve conduction tests. Most people living with Friedreich’s need to use a wheelchair within 15 years of the onset of symptoms. Complications from the disorder include loss of mobility and heart failure. Counseling and physical and speech therapy are recommended to help patients adjust.
Throughout October, visit the Friederich’s Ataxia Research Alliance for information, support resources, and local events raising awareness of FA and research toward a cure.