Spinal Muscular Atrophy Awareness Month
Spinal Muscular Atrophy Awareness Month is a public health and awareness campaign focusing on the leading genetic cause of the death in babies younger than two years of age. Spinal muscular atrophy (SMA) is a genetic disease that affects the parts of the nervous system that controls voluntary muscle movement. SMA is a genetic mutation of the 5th chromosome.
The goal of spinal muscular atrophy month is to raise awareness about screenings to find out if you are a carrier of the SMA mutation. 1 in 40 Americans (7 million) are carriers for the disease according to Consumer Digest. The American College of Medical Genetics believes that all couples who are planning a pregnancy should be offered SMA carrier testing. This is in order to give families enough time to make informed decisions when it comes to reproduction. However, the American College of Obstetrics & Gynecology still has not made a formal statement in connection to SMA screening. Thus, there are varying practices among physicians with some offering it and others not offering it.
The goal for the awareness is also for strengthening the fight against the deadly disease and supporting research for the purpose of finding a cure. It is also a time for supporting individuals suffering from the disease along with their families who suffer with them.
Physical therapy and occupational therapy programs can help children and adults learn the best ways to maximize their muscle function and accomplish activities of daily living. An array of assistive technology products can help even very young children explore the world despite having very weak muscles. Standers, walkers, various kinds of powered and manual wheeled vehicles, and braces (orthoses) can help with standing and moving around. Therapists also can help teachers and parents find the best physical solutions for the school environment. Speech therapy can help with breathing, swallowing, and communication problems in both children and adults with SMA
For more information on SMA
-Matthew D’Antonio, DPT, PT
-Pediatric Physical Therapist