Other Names for this Disease
- Friedreich's ataxia
- Hereditary spinal ataxia
- Hereditary spinal sclerosis
- Spinocerebellar ataxia, Friedreich
Other symptoms that may occur include chest pain, shortness of breath, and heart palpitations. These symptoms are the result of various forms of heart disease that often accompany Friedreich ataxia, such as cardiomyopathy (enlargement of the heart), myocardial fibrosis (formation of fiber-like material in the muscles of the heart), and cardiac failure. Heart rhythm abnormalities such as tachycardia (fast heart rate) and heart block (impaired conduction of cardiac impulses within the heart) are also common. About 20 percent of people with Friedreich ataxia develop carbohydrate intolerance and 10 percent develop diabetes mellitus. Some people lose hearing or eyesight.
The rate of progression varies from person to person. Generally, within 10 to 20 years after the appearance of the first symptoms, the person is confined to a wheelchair, and in later stages of the disease individuals become completely incapacitated. Life expectancy may be affected, and many people with Friedreich ataxia die in adulthood from the associated heart disease, the most common cause of death. However, some people with less severe symptoms of Friedreich ataxia live much longer, sometimes into their sixties or seventies.
- Friedreich's Ataxia Fact Sheet. The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS) . August 2011; http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/friedreichs_ataxia/detail_friedreichs_ataxia.htm. Accessed 1/23/2012.