What is it?

Ataxia is a neurological sign which usually indicates cerebellar damage, but can also be caused by other central nervous system damage. People with ataxia may have difficulties in balance, walking, speach, swallowing, eating, writing and vision problems. There are several types of ataxia; Acquired ataxia is when symptoms develop after a trauma, a stroke or as a result of brain tumor, nutritional deficiencies, alcohol misuse, some infections or an underlying condition such as multiple sclerosis. Hereditary ataxia, is a genetic disease in which the symptoms develop gradually throughout life. The most common hereditary ataxia is Friedreich’s ataxia. Idiopathic late-onset cerebellar ataxia (ILOCA) is a late- onset cerebellar ataxia with yet unknown etiology. The severity of the symptoms, the age of onset and the rate of deterioration depend on the cause of the ataxia, as well as the chance of further improvement.

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Additional names

This group contains additional names:
- Ataxia (loss of muscle coordination)
- Ataxia as late effect of cerebral infarction
- Ataxia as late effect of cerebrovascular disease
- Ataxia from stroke

Signs & symptoms

Ataxia symptoms may include poor coordination, unsteady walk, tendency to stumble, difficulty in fine motor tasks- eating, writing, buttoning a shirt, changes in speech, nystagmus, difficulty swallowing.

Diagnosis

Ataxia is diagnosed in a physical and neurological exam. The doctor will probably look for deficits in memory, concentration, vision, hearing, balance, coordination and reflexes. Imaging studies of the brain can be performed in order to search the cause for ataxia. A lumbar puncture may be done to look for infection of the cerebrospinal fluid. If a genetic condition is suspected, genetic tests can be performed.

Treatment

Ataxia has no cure. If there is an underlying known cause that is treatable- it should be treated. Otherwise, supportive treatment is advised, and includes speech and language therapy, physiotherapy, adaptive devices,occupational therapy and medications if needed.

☝️ This is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult with your physician before making any medical decision.

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