Spinocerebellar Ataxia (SCA) is a genetic condition that affects an individual’s voluntary functions such as standing, walking, or speaking.
Living with SCA can be physically and emotionally devastating. However, modern medicine has brought in a plethora of rehabilitation methods that can significantly improve quality of life.
Speech therapy helps ataxia patients to speak intelligibly and swallow safely, helping them get the requisite nutrition, while also participating actively in society. Through this blog, let’s understand more about SCA and how speech therapy can benefit SCA patients.
Let’s understand SCA
It refers to a group of ataxias that cause harm to the cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls balance and movements.
There are 40 types of SCA discovered so far. Each type is named SCA1, SCA2, and so on. The most common type is SCA3, also known as Machado-Joseph Disease.
Triggers of SCA
The following can be the triggers or causes of spinocerebellar ataxia:
- Cerebral palsy
- Autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis, celiac disease, etc
- Vitamin deficiency (specifically Vitamins E, B-12, thiamin)
- Side effects of medication (chemotherapy, sedatives, etc)
- Viral infections such as chicken pox
- Head trauma
- Parkinson’s disease
SCA can be inherited in an autosomal dominant or autosomal recessive fashion.
Speech-related symptoms of SCA
Ataxia patients may experience the following speech-related symptoms:
- Dysphagia (difficulty in swallowing)
- Dysarthria (slurred speech)
Benefits of speech therapy for SCA
Dysarthria and dysphagia are two of the most common symptoms of SCA. Nerve signals to the mouth and neck muscles get disrupted as a result of brain damage, leading to slurred speech, softened tone, and difficulty in swallowing.
Speech Therapy can help improve the patient’s speech, communication, and swallowing. A speech and language pathologist (SLP) will devise a plan based on the patient’s current abilities and needs. This plan typically involves a variety of exercises to improve control over the muscles in the mouth, jaw, tongue, and throat.
Speech therapy for SCA could include:
- Speaking slowly so that each word is intelligible
- Employing breathing techniques to improve speech quality
- Altering posture while speaking to maintain an even and audible voice quality
- Playing word games to improve language processing skills
- Exercises that trigger the swallowing reflex to enable safe swallowing
In advanced cases of SCA, the SLP will help the patient to use speech aids, such as a laptop linked to a voice synthesizer, in order to communicate.
SLPs also recommend certain dietary changes, and in advanced cases may suggest including blended foods and meals with soft textures.
SCA rehabilitation at Plexus
At Plexus, we offer a tailored neuro-rehabilitation programme to help manage SCA symptoms, slow disease progression, and improve quality of life.
Apart from speech therapy, our customised rehabilitation programme also includes:
- Physiotherapy to improve muscle strength, overall stability, core strength, balance, and coordination
- Adaptive devices such as walkers or wheelchairs to improve balance and enable safe mobility
- Occupational Therapy to help the patient complete daily activities of living on their own
- Counseling, to help manage the stress of living with a neurological condition
Stem Cell Therapy for SCA uses the patient’s own cells to replace the brain and nerve cells damaged by the disease.
With regular speech therapy, ataxia patients can learn to speak clearly, communicate their needs and feelings, and even safely relish the foods they love. In addition, taking the support of loved ones and engaging in activities one enjoys will help the patient navigate this challenging journey more fruitfully.
Reach out to our team of experienced speech therapists today.
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