Ataxia (patient information)
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Ataxia On the Web
Ataxia is a condition in which a person cannot make normal body movements and cannot keep proper posture. A person affected by ataxia will have erratic movements. The condition may develop at any stage of life, including during childhood, and it can affect any body part.
What are the symptoms of Ataxia?
Symptoms may include:
- Inability to stand without swaying
- A uneven gait that may look like the person is drunk
- Involuntary shifting of the eyes (nystagmus)
- Unusual speech patterns such as:
- Monotonous tone
- Either rushing words or placing large gaps between syllables
- Impaired motions
- Tremors in the limbs, particularly towards the end of movements
What causes Ataxia?
When there is a problem in the communication between parts of the brain that control movement, ataxia results. Some forms of ataxia are inherited. Such forms include:
- Friedreich ataxia
- Type 1 and Type 2 Episodic ataxia
- Fragile X tremor/ataxia syndrome
- Types 1-28 of Spinocerebellar ataxia
Other inherited causes of ataxia include:
Other causes of ataxia that are not inherited include:
- Multiple sclerosis
- Malabsorption of Vitamin E
- Brain tumor
- Brain lesion
- Infection such as HIV, syphilis, or prion disease
- Paraneoplastic syndrome
- Cerebellar form of multiple system atrophy
Who is at highest risk?
Those who have a family history of inherited ataxia may be at higher risk for developing ataxia. Genetic testing may be recommended in these cases.
When to seek urgent medical care?
Many neurological disorders have ataxia as a symptom. Therefore, if you think you might be experiencing ataxia, you should make an appointment with your medical care professional.
You health care provider can diagnose you of ataxia. During your exam, your doctor will take a full medical history. He will also likely perform a neurological exam and may order laboratory tests. Your doctor may also recommend you undergo medical imaging to look for evidence of strokes or other possible causes of ataxia.
Since there are many causes for ataxia and many types of ataxia, treatments vary greatly. Many treatments focus on treating the underlying condition rather than the ataxic symptoms themselves.
Where to find medical care for Ataxia?
What to expect (Outlook/Prognosis)?
Outlook varies widely depending on the cause of the ataxia and whether or not a serious condition is the underlying cause of the ataxia.
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