Friedreich’s Ataxia

  • Friedreich’s ataxia (FA) is a debilitating, life-shortening, degenerative neuro-muscular disorder. About one in 50,000 people in the United States have Friedreich’s ataxia. Onset of symptoms can vary from childhood to adulthood. Childhood onset of FA is usually between the ages of 5 and 15 and tends to be associated with a more rapid progression. Late onset FA (LOFA) can occur anytime during adulthood. FARA is supporting research that will improve the quality and length of life for those diagnosed with Friedreich’s ataxia and will lead to treatments that eliminate its symptoms.
    Signs and Symptoms loss of coordination (ataxia) in the arms and legs fatigue – energy deprivation and muscle loss vision impairment, hearing loss, and slurred speech aggressive scoliosis (curvature of the spine) diabetes mellitus (insulin – dependent, in most cases) a serious heart condition (enlarged heart – hypertrophic cardiomyopathy)
    These symptoms are not present in all individuals with FA, for example diabetes occurs in about 10-20% of individuals with FA. The mental capabilities of people with Friedreich’s ataxia remain completely intact. The progressive loss of coordination and muscle strength leads to motor incapacitation and the full-time use of a wheelchair. Most young people diagnosed with FA require mobility aids such as a cane, walker, or wheelchair by their teens or early 20s.
    For more information please visit: http://www.curefa.org/

Fact Sheet


  • Friedreich’s Ataxia

    Excerpt taken from the National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke:

    Friedreich's Ataxia FACT Sheet- NIH

    Friedreich's ataxia (also called FA or FRDA) is a rare inherited disease that causes nervous system damage and movement problems. It usually begins in childhood and leads to impaired muscle coordination (ataxia) that worsens over time. The disorder is named after Nicholaus Friedreich, a German doctor who first described the condition in the 1860s.

    In Friedreich’s ataxia the spinal cord and peripheral nerves degenerate, becoming thinner. The cerebellum, part of the brain that coordinates balance and movement, also degenerates to a lesser extent. This damage results in awkward, unsteady movements and impaired sensory functions. The disorder also causes problems in the heart and spine, and some people with the condition develop diabetes. The disorder does not affect thinking and reasoning abilities (cognitive functions).

    Friedreich’s ataxia is caused by a defect (mutation) in a gene labeled FXN. The disorder is recessive, meaning it occurs only in someone who inherits two defective copies of the gene, one from each parent. Although rare, Friedreich’s ataxia is the most common form of hereditary ataxia, affecting about 1 in every 50,000 people in the United States. Both male and female children can inherit the disorder.

    For more information about on going research efforts to treat FA, please check out the Friedreich's Ataxia Research Alliance.