Friedreich's Ataxia (FA) is a rare progressive disorder. It affects one in 50,000 people globally.
This is the most common type of inherited childhood-onset ataxia. Some ethnic groups or regions may have lower or higher incident rates.
FA significantly impacts a person’s quality of life. Studies continue to search for treatment options, but at this time, there’s no cure.
How can you recognize the early symptoms? Are there ways to prevent this disorder?
What Is Friedreich's Ataxia?
FA is a neurological degenerative disease affecting the spinocerebellar tract. This means that the nerves between the lower brain (cerebellum) and the spinal cord break down.
The cerebellum helps your body stay balanced. The spinal cord nerves send and receive messages between the brain and the muscles. This interruption causes ataxia which means losing control of coordinated body movement.
Often, diagnosis occurs between the ages of five and 18. Yet, there are younger cases as well as adult-onset. This disorder leads to progressive loss of motor control and heart disease.
FA decreases the production of the protein, frataxin. This causes cardiomyopathy, a thickening of the heart muscle. It also affects the endocrine and musculoskeletal systems.
Cardiac hypertrophy, an enlargement of the heart, also occurs. Cardiomyopathy with cardiac hypertrophy is the most common cause of death.
FA also generates high accumulations of iron in the cells. Increased iron levels reduce the proper functioning of the mitochondria. This is most often seen in the heart and nervous system cells.
Mitochondria generate cellular level energy. Impairing the mitochondrial function affects nerve and muscle responses.
What Causes Friedreich's Ataxia?
FA is hereditary so it's passed through family lines. This recessive autosomal disease can affect both sexes. In order for a child to inherit this disease, both parents must pass the gene. Even though it’s hereditary, it’s doesn’t always occur in every generation.
If both parents carry the FA-causing mutations, their child’s risk of having FA is 25%. There’s a 50% chance their child will become a carrier. On a high note, there’s a 25% chance the child won’t be a carrier or have the disease.
Is Friedreich Ataxia Preventable?
Since this is an inherited disorder, there’s no prevention for FA. Concerned parents should speak to their healthcare provider about genetic tests. This can show if they carry the FA-causing mutation.
Preventing Friedreich Ataxia Progression
Since there’s no cure for FA, treatment focuses on reducing symptoms. Care plans work to maintain function and comfort. Braces provide support to the spine, arms, legs, and feet as needed.
Physical, speech, and occupational therapy promote optimal function. If needed, surgery may be done to correct skeletal problems. Medications are given to treat issues such as diabetes and heart disease.
Friedreich Ataxia Symptoms
Friedreich Ataxia causes problems in many parts of the body. There's a loss of function in the trunk, head, neck, and lower and upper limb muscles. The person also loses their sense of position, called proprioception.
Since this greatly affects the lower limbs, individuals have significant balance issues. They also experience a reduction in their precision and coordination of movements.
Some of the first symptoms include trouble balancing and walking, known as ataxia. The person often places their feet farther apart to achieve more balance. Their steps are unequal, and they may also hold their arms out.
As the disease progresses, the individual will need help when moving around. They often have trouble speaking (dysarthria), loss of sensation, and weakness. There’s an increased risk of developing diabetes mellitus and scoliosis.
Other symptoms include trouble swallowing (dysphagia), and reduced vision and hearing. Fatigue, trouble breathing, chest pains, and palpitations may also occur.
Some people develop hollow feet. This describes a bulge on the top of the foot. The bottom, center of the foot becomes hollow.
FA also causes cardiomyopathy and cardiac hypertrophy, as described. With disease progression, the heart muscle can become fibrotic or scarred. This makes the muscle stiff and unable to pump blood out of the heart causing death.
For most people, the disease progresses faster at the beginning. Within eight to ten years, they're often wheelchair-bound.
Each person’s disease progression is different even among family members. While most people live into their 30s, some survive to 60 years and beyond.
Ataxia Canada was founded in 1972. Its mission is to enhance the well-being of people with FA and their families. They also support and advance FA research initiatives.
This organization promotes educational programs to increase awareness. They teach political decision-makers, health professionals, and the general public. Ataxia Canada also raises funds via voluntary subscriptions, grants, and other activities.
Choosing Health Insurance
It’s key for those with FA to have the most beneficial health insurance plan. Insurdinary provides a platform to help Canadians find the best plan.
The goal of health insurance is to give you financial protection. This type of insurance applies to situations involving health problems or medical emergencies.
Canadians and permanent Canadian residents can get public health insurance. Government health care plans don’t cover all healthcare and procedures you need.
To fill in the gaps, you can choose to buy a private health care plan. These options help decrease what you have to pay out of pocket for specific healthcare. Examples include eye exams, dental checkups, visits to the hospital, and more.
Several factors impact your choices. Where you live, the desired coverage and your financial situation affect your options. Other considerations include your age, current health, and medical history.
What Do Health Insurance Plans Cover?
Different health insurance companies offer a variety of plans. In general, most providers pay for a portion of the total cost for standard care or equipment. The following describes common covered expenses.
- Dental care
- Eye care
- Hospital visits
- Prescribed medical equipment
- Prescription medications
- Preventative care
- Travel to receive care
- Various types of therapy
This list is not all-encompassing. It’s important to review the coverage options from several companies. This will ensure you make the best choice for yourself and your family.
Health Insurance Premiums
Like other types of insurance, you’ll have a set amount, or premium, that you pay. This buys you certain benefits to help pay for part or all your future medical expenses. If your plan only pays part of the total bill, you’ll need to pay the balance.
Individuals with FA may need a disability insurance plan. This is vital if you’re the primary earner for your family.
Insurdinary can help you find the best plan early on. You don’t want to wait until you’re disabled to start looking for coverage.
Disability insurance helps with temporary inabilities to work. This may occur in the early stages of the disease. As your function decreases, you may reach a point where you can’t work anymore.
Often disability income insurance covers between 60% and 85% of your salary. This will give you peace of mind if you must stop working.
When you sign up for disability insurance, you’ll choose how much monthly coverage you want. There will also be options for different benefits packages. Based on these choices, you pay a specified monthly premium.
If you become unable to work, you’ll start receiving the pre-set monthly payments. These will continue until you return to work, or your benefit period ends
Cost for Disability Insurance
There are several factors that impact the cost of disability insurance. Your age at the time you sign up for an insurance policy affects the total cost. This type of policy is less expensive for younger individuals.
Insurance providers always consider your current and past health history. This helps them decide if they want to sell you a disability policy. It also affects the price they’ll charge you.
It may surprise you to learn that your occupation impacts the insurance premiums. Workers in an office setting, for example, usually pay lower premiums. Those who work “in the field” or in more dangerous settings pay higher premiums.
Eligibility Exclusions for Disability Insurance
There are specific circumstances or conditions that may not meet the eligibility requirements. It’s important to understand that each plan differs in its rules. Insurdinary can assist you in looking for a plan to meet your needs.
Companies may not cover disabilities caused when fighting in a war or committing a crime. Self-inflicted injury disabilities are also frequently denied.
Are You Searching for the Best Insurance Option?
Individuals with a progressive, debilitating disorder, such as Friedreich Ataxia, need insurance. Insurdinary is Canada’s leading platform for financial comparison. We offer a vast number of resources to help you make an educated choice for financial products.
Our products include health and dental insurance and health insurance plans. You’ll also find options for travel, super visa, and group benefits insurance. Ontario-based services include dental, health, and group benefits insurance.
Contact Insurdinary today for your free, no-obligation quote.