Disease at a Glance

Summary
Olivopontocerebellar atrophy (OPCA) is a term used for a progressive condition characterized by the degeneration of nerve cells (neurons) in specific areas of the brain. OPCA can be viewed as a finding of several diseases, and indicates a form of progressive ataxia (abnormal or uncontrolled movements) distinguished by characteristic findings in brain imaging studies and at autopsy (pontine flattening and cerebellar atrophy). It was traditionally divided in hereditary or genetic OPCA and sporadic OPCA. Currently, most of the major forms of hereditary OPCA refer to disorders that overlap with spinocerebellar ataxia (SCA), which is a neurological disorder characterized by ataxia. The sporadic forms are considered now to be a form of multiple system atrophy (MSA). OPCA may also occur in people with prion disorders and inherited metabolic diseases. The main symptom is clumsiness that slowly gets worse. Other symptoms may include problems with balance; speech or swallowing problems; difficulty walking; abnormal eye movements; muscle spasms; and neuropathy. Whether OPCA is inherited (and the inheritance pattern) depends on the underlying cause, if known.
Estimated Number of People with this Disease

This section is currently in development.

What Information Does GARD Have For This Disease?

Many rare diseases have limited information. Currently GARD is able to provide the following information for this disease:

*Data may be currently unavailable to GARD at this time.
Categories
When do symptoms of this disease begin?
This section is currently in development. 

Symptoms

This section is currently in development. We recommend speaking with a doctor to learn more about this disease. 

Causes

This section is currently in development. 

Next Steps

Talking with the Medical Team

Good communication between the patient, family, and medical team can lead to an accurate diagnosis. In addition, health care decisions can be made together which improves the patient’s well-being and quality of life.

Describing Symptoms

Describe details about the symptoms. Because there may be many different causes for a single symptom, it is best not to make a conclusion about the diagnosis. The detailed descriptions help the medical provider determine the correct diagnosis.

To help describe a symptom:

  • Use a smartphone or a notebook to record each symptom before the appointment
  • Describe each symptom by answering the following questions:
    • When did the symptom start?
    • How often does it happen?
    • Does anything make it better or worse?
  • Tell the medical team whether any symptoms affect daily activities

Preparing for the First Visit

Working with a medical team to find a diagnosis can be a long process that will require more than one appointment. Make better health decisions by being prepared for the first visit with each member of the medical team.

    Make informed decisions about health care: 
    • Prepare a list of questions and concerns before the appointment
    • List the most important questions first, not all questions may be answered in the first visit
    • Ask questions about symptoms, possible diagnoses, tests, and treatment options
    For future appointments:
    • Discuss what was not addressed at the last visit
    • Discuss changes in the quality of life for the patient, family, and caregivers
    • Discuss health goals and other issues in the patient’s and family’s life that may affect the health care decisions
    Take notes during the appointments to help remember what was discussed.

    Last Updated: Nov. 8, 2021