Your browser does not support javascript:   Search for gard hereSearch for news-and-events here.


Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center (GARD)

Hereditary spastic paraplegia

Other Names for this Disease
  • HSP
  • Familial spastic paraparesis
  • FSP
See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.

Your Question

My mother has spastic paraplegia. She was diagnosed about five years ago at the Mayo Clinic. She has the complicated form of the disorder because she is confined to a wheelchair and her mind has slowed down. Also, her brother also had this disorder. I know that I have a 50% chance of inheriting this disorder. Since my family members' cases are so severe, does this mean mine probably would be as well? Also, what research is being done to work towards a cure for this?

Our Answer

We have identified the following information that we hope you find helpful. If you still have questions, please contact us.

What is hereditary spastic paraplegia?

Hereditary spastic paraplegia (HSP) is a group of hereditary, degenerative, neurological disorders that primarily affect the upper motor neurons. Upper motor neurons in the brain and spinal cord deliver signals to the lower motor neurons, which in turn, carry messages to the muscles. In hereditary spastic paraplegia, upper motor neurons slowly degenerate so the muscles do not receive the correct messages, causing progressive spasticity (increased muscle tone/stiffness) and weakness of the legs. This leads to difficulty walking. As degeneration continues, symptoms worsen.[1] If only the lower body is affected, HSP is classified as uncomplicated or pure. HSP is classified as complicated or complex if other systems are involved. In these cases, additional symptoms, including impaired vision, ataxia, epilepsy, cognitive impairment, peripheral neuropathy, and/or deafness, occur.[1][2] The different forms of HSP are caused by mutations in different genes. Inheritance varies. There are no specific treatments to prevent, slow, or reverse HSP. Individual symptoms may be treated with medications and/or physical therapy.[2][3] 
Last updated: 4/24/2016

How is hereditary spastic paraplegia (HSP) inherited?

At this point, over 70 different types of HSP have been described.[1] The different patterns of inheritance are autosomal dominant, autosomal recessive, and X-linked recessive.[1][4]
Last updated: 4/24/2016

My family history of hereditary spastic paraplegia (HSP) includes my mother and her brother. Is there a 50% chance that I will also be affected?

HSP can be inherited in different ways in different families. We suggest that you consult with a genetics professional to discuss how this condition is inherited in your family and your risk of developing HSP. In general, when HSP is inherited in an autosomal dominant pattern, there is a 50% chance that the child of an affected indiviudal will also be affected. When only two siblings are affected, it typically cannot be determined if the condition is autosomal dominant. The condition may also be inherited in an autosomal recessive manner.
Last updated: 6/28/2013

What is autosomal recessive inheritance?

Autosomal recessive inheritance refers to the inheritance pattern in which two mutated copies of the gene that causes a disorder are present in each cell. An affected person usually has unaffected parents who each carry a single copy of the mutated gene (and are referred to as carriers). Autosomal recessive disorders are typically not seen in every generation of an affected family. When two people who are carriers of an autosomal recessive condition have a child, there is a 25% (1 in 4) chance that the child will be affected.[5]
Last updated: 12/28/2015

What is autosomal dominant inheritance?

Autosomal dominant inheritance is when one mutated copy of the gene that causes a disorder in each cell is needed for a person to be affected. Autosomal dominant conditions may occur for the first time in a person in a family due to a spontaneous gene mutation, or these conditions may be inherited from an affected parent. When a person with an autosomal dominant disorder has a child, there is a 50% chance that their child will inherit the condition.[5]
Last updated: 12/28/2015

How can I learn more about research for hereditary spastic paraplegias?

The U.S. National Institutes of Health, through the National Library of Medicine, developed to provide patients, family members, and members of the public with current information on clinical research studies. You can find clinical trials for individuals with spastic paraplegias at the following link. After you click on a study, review its "eligibility" criteria to determine its appropriateness. Use the study’s contact information to learn more. Check this site often for regular updates.

You can also contact the Patient Recruitment and Public Liaison (PRPL) Office at the National Institutes of Health (NIH). We recommend calling the toll-free number listed below to speak with a specialist, who can help you find trials of interest. 

Patient Recruitment and Public Liaison Office
NIH Clinical Center
Bethesda, Maryland 20892-2655
Toll-free: 800-411-1222
Fax: 301-480-9793
Web site:

If you are interested in enrolling in a clinical trial, you can find helpful general information on clinical trials at the Web page. Resources on many charitable or special-fare flights to research and treatment sites and low-cost hospitality accommodations for outpatients and family members, as well as ambulance services, are listed on the Web site of the Office of Rare Diseases Research (ORDR), part of the National Institutes of Health.

You can also learn more about current research from the Spastic Paraplegia Foundation.

Spastic Paraplegia Foundation
4 Sherwood Hill Road
Sherman, CT   06784-2001
Tel: 703-495-9261
Fax: 703-495-9261
Web site:

Last updated: 10/18/2013

Since my family members' cases of hereditary spastic paraplegia (HSP) are severe, does this mean I could also have severe HSP?

It is difficult to predict the severity of HSP without a diagnosis of a specific subtype. In some types, there is variation in the severity of symptoms among family members. Family members in subsequent generations may be more or less severely affected. In some types, a person can inherit the genetic change that causes HSP but not show any symptoms. This phenomenon is called reduced or incomplete penetrance. Even though these individuals show no symptoms of the disorder, they can still have affected children.[6]
Last updated: 7/5/2013

How can I find a genetics professional in my area?

Genetics clinics are a source of information for individuals and families regarding genetic conditions, treatment, inheritance, and genetic risks to other family members. More information about genetic consultations is available from Genetics Home Reference. To find a genetics clinic, we recommend that you contact your primary healthcare provider for a referral.

The following online resources can help you find a genetics professional in your community:

Last updated: 5/24/2016

Other Names for this Disease
  • HSP
  • Familial spastic paraparesis
  • FSP
See Disclaimer regarding information on this site. Some links on this page may take you to organizations outside of the National Institutes of Health.