Impact and burden of acid sphingomyelinase deficiency from a patient and caregiver perspective

Sci Rep. 2021 Oct 25;11(1):20972. doi: 10.1038/s41598-021-99921-6.


Acid sphingomyelinase deficiency (ASMD), historically known as Niemann-Pick disease (NPD) types A, A/B, and B, is a rare, progressive, potentially fatal lysosomal storage disease with a spectrum of phenotypes. Little is known about how ASMD symptoms affect the lives of patients and their caregivers. In a cross-sectional qualitative study conducted in the US and UK, and in collaboration with the National Niemann-Pick Disease Foundation (US) and Niemann-Pick UK, we investigated the symptom experience of patients with ASMD types B and A/B and explored how the disease impacts their and their caregivers' lives. The study included 17 adult patients (mean age 38.7 years, 12 female), three caregivers of adults with ASMD, 12 pediatric/adolescent patients with ASMD (mean age 10.5 years, six female), and 12 caregivers of pediatric/adolescent patients with ASMD. The most commonly reported disease manifestations were respiratory (n = 26, 89.7%), abdominal (n = 25, 86.2%), and musculoskeletal symptoms (n = 23, 79.3%); excessive bleeding or bruising (n = 20, 69%); fatigue (n = 20, 69%); gastrointestinal symptoms (n = 18, 62.1%); and headache (n = 15, 51.7%). ASMD was reported to negatively impact patients' physical function (n = 23, 79.3%), self-esteem (n = 18, 62.1%), emotions (n = 16, 55.2%), social function and relationships (n = 16, 55.2%), and personal care (n = 9, 31%). Providing care for individuals with ASMD negatively affected caregivers' emotional well-being (n = 12, 80%), social function (n = 4, 26.7%), relationships (n = 6, 40%), and financial security (n = 7, 46.7%). The physical toll of providing care, the need for lifestyle changes, and the responsibility for making medical decisions added to the burden for caregivers. Alternatively, some caregivers noted that caring for a loved one enhanced their spirituality, providing them with a different outlook on life and a deeper personal resolve. This study showed that ASMD is a substantial burden for patients and caregivers, with long-term physical, emotional, social, and financial impacts. The study confirmed commonly known manifestations of ASMD, especially respiratory problems, but also identified less recognized ones, such as dermatological complications. The data collected and insight gained from this study should enhance clinical care, help evaluate new treatments, and inform health care decision making for patients with ASMD.