Hereditary spastic paraplegia (HSP), also called familial spastic paraparesis (FSP), refers to a group of inherited disorders that are characterized by progressive weakness and stiffness of the legs. Though the primary feature of HSP is severe, progressive, lower extremity spasticity, in more complicated forms it can be accompanied by other neurological symptoms. These include optic neuropathy, retinopathy (diseases of the retina), dementia, ataxia (lack of muscle control), icthyosis (a skin disorder resulting in dry, rough, scaly skin), mental retardation, peripheral neuropathy, and deafness. Diagnosis is primarily by neurological examination and testing to exclude other disorders. Specialized genetic testing and diagnosis are available at some medical centers.

There are no specific treatments to prevent, slow, or reverse HSP. Symptomatic treatments used for other forms of chronic paraplegia are sometimes helpful. Regular physical therapy is important for improving muscle strength and preserving range of motion.

The prognosis for individuals with HSP varies. Some cases are seriously disabling while others are less disabling and are compatible with a productive and full life. The majority of individuals with HSP have a normal life expectancy.

Prepared by the National Institutes of Health