Hereditary spastic paraparesis (HSP) is a group of rare genetic disorders affecting the central nervous system. Pure HSP is limited to lower limb spasticity and urinary voiding dysfunction. Complex HSP involves additional neurological features. Beyond the described core symptoms, knowledge about the burden of disease for adults with HSP is limited, particularly regarding gastrointestinal functions, fecal incontinence, and urinary symptoms.
We conducted a cross-sectional self-report survey with 108 adult HSP patients (Mage = 57.7 years, SD = 11.5, range 30 to 81; 54.2% females) recruited from a national HSP user group association and a national (non-clinical) advisory unit for rare disorders. HSP data was compared to data from a Norwegian population study, HUNT-3 (N = 46,293).
The HSP group reported more gastrointestinal and urinary complaints compared to controls. Gastrointestinal complaints included at least “much” complaints with constipation (14.6%) and alternating constipation/diarrhea (8.0%), and at least daily uncontrollable flatulence (47.6%), fecal incontinence (11.6%), and inability to hold back stools (38.5%). Urinary complaints included frequent urination (27.4% > 8 times daily), sudden urge (51.9%) and urinary incontinence (30.5% at least daily/nightly).
This survey of adults with HSP recruited from non-clinical settings showed constipation, alternate constipation and diarrhea, fecal incontinence, and voiding dysfunction represent considerable problems for many persons with HSP. Health care providers should screen and manage often unrecognized gastrointestinal and fecal incontinence complaints among HSP patients.