What're the symptoms of Friedreich's ataxia?
Symptoms of Friedreich's ataxia usually first appear between the ages of 8 and 15, although onset as early as 18 months or as late as age 25 is possible. The first symptom is usually gait incoordination. A child with FA may graze doorways
when passing through, for instance, or trip over low obstacles. Unsteadiness when standing still and deterioration of position sense is common. Foot deformities and walking up off the heels often results from uneven muscle weakness in the legs. Muscle spasms and cramps may occur, especially at night.
Ataxia in the arms follows, usually within several years, leading to decreased hand-eye coordination. Arm weakness does not usually occur until much later. Speech and swallowing difficulties are common. Diabetes mellitus may also occur. Nystagmus, or eye tremor, is common, along with some loss of visual acuity. Hearing loss may also occur. A side-to-side curvature of the spine (scoliosis) occurs in many cases, and may become severe.
Heartbeat abnormalities occur in about two thirds of FA patients, leading to shortness of breath after exertion, swelling in the lower limbs, and frequent complaints of cold feet.