What is Friedreich’s Ataxia?

Friedreich’s Ataxia (FA) is a rare genetic, debilitating, progressive and life-shortening disorder off the central nervous system. It usually manifests itself in children between the ages of five to fifteen years of age. However, in some instances the onset for FA can be both at a younger age or at a much older age.

Initial symptoms include clumsiness of movement, weakness and muscle loss which causes an unsteadiness in standing and walking which can be mistaken for drunkenness. As the disorder progresses, it can cause vision impairment, hearing loss, slurred speech, aggressive scoliosis (curvature of the spine), diabetes mellitus and a serious heart condition.

People with FA eventually are wheelchair dependent often in their late teens and sometimes earlier. As the years progress, people with FA become totally physical dependent. People who have FA often compare it to Motor Neurone Disease except FA starts at a younger age and the person lives much longer than the usual five years that one lives with Motor Neurone Disease.