Olivopontocerebellar Atrophy or OPCA is a progressive degeneration of the cerebellum, the pons, and the inferior olives of the brain.1 This degeneration rsults in a variety of ataxias that can vary in age of onset and severity.
|Dysarthria - "Speech that is characteristically slurred, slow, and difficult to produce (difficult to understand). The person with dysarthria may also have problems controlling the pitch, loudness, rhythm, and voice qualities of their speech."2|
Other Symptoms include:
|Numbness in hands or feet|
|Bradykinesia (slowness of movement)|
|Thought or memory impairment|
|Orthostatic Hypotension - "is a sudden fall in blood pressure that occurs when a person assumes a standing position"3|
|Dysphagia - swallowing difficulties|
Treatment involves treating symptoms. Medications are used to treat the ataxia, rigidity and tremor as well as secondary symptoms like insomnia and bladder problems. Physical therapy is important in keeping the muscles limber and occupational therapy can be useful in making everyday living easier by suggesting appliances to aid with these tasks
Since this is usually aslowly progressing disease (although some may end up in wheel chairs after only a few years, life expectancy is quoted a being approximately 20 years from onset.
1 About.com - Anatomy of the brain- a good area to study the anatomy of the brain.
2 MedTerms.com - Dysarthria
3 Orthostatic Hypotension