Readers ask: What is ataxia?

What is ataxia and what causes it?

Ataxia is usually caused by damage to a part of the brain known as the cerebellum, but it can also be caused by damage to the spinal cord or other nerves. The spinal cord is a long bundle of nerves that runs down the spine and connects the brain to all other parts of the body.

What are the early signs of ataxia?

Symptoms Poor coordination . Unsteady walk and a tendency to stumble. Difficulty with fine motor tasks, such as eating, writing or buttoning a shirt. Change in speech. Involuntary back-and-forth eye movements ( nystagmus ) Difficulty swallowing .

Can ataxia be cured?

There is no cure for ataxia . The outlook will depend on the type, cause, and severity. Some types of hereditary ataxia can shorten a person’s lifespan, but many people will have the same life expectancy as those without the condition.

Is ataxia a symptom or a disease?

Ataxia is a degenerative disease of the nervous system. Many symptoms of Ataxia mimic those of being drunk, such as slurred speech , stumbling , falling, and incoordination . These symptoms are caused by damage to the cerebellum, the part of the brain that is responsible for coordinating movement.

Does ataxia show up on MRI?

Imaging studies. An MRI can sometimes show shrinkage of the cerebellum and other brain structures in people with ataxia . It may also show other treatable findings, such as a blood clot or benign tumor, that could be pressing on your cerebellum.

Can you drive with ataxia?

Most people with a cerebellar ataxia are able to safely drive . It is the duty of someone who develops a cerebellar disorder to notify the road licensing authority in their state, to ensure that their driver’s license is valid and that they are covered by their insurance.

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How is ataxia diagnosed?

Ataxia is diagnosed using a combination of a patient’s medical history, their family’s medical history, a detailed physical examination, and MRI scans and blood tests to rule out other disorders. There are genetic blood tests available for some forms of hereditary ataxia .

What does ataxic gait look like?

Ataxic gait is often characterized by difficulty walking in a straight line, lateral veering, poor balance, a widened base of support, inconsistent arm motion, and lack of repeatability. These symptoms often resemble gait seen under the influence of alcohol.

How long can you live with ataxia?

Life expectancy is generally shorter than normal for people with hereditary ataxia , although some people can live well into their 50s, 60s or beyond. In more severe cases, the condition can be fatal in childhood or early adulthood. For acquired ataxia , the outlook depends on the underlying cause.

Is ataxia a disability?

If you have Ataxia , you may experience a variety of challenges. Ataxia can be disabling, and if you are unable to work and earn a living because of the severity of the condition, you may qualify for disability benefits from the Social Security Administration (SSA).

Does ataxia affect memory?

The cerebellum plays a role in some forms of thinking. Patients with cerebellar atrophy may have impaired recall of newly learned information or difficulty with “executive functions” such as making plans and keeping thoughts in proper sequence.

Does ataxia worsen with age?

Ataxia can develop at any age . It is typically progressive, meaning it can get worse with time. It is a rare condition, affecting about 150,000 people in the U.S.

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Is ataxia a symptom of Parkinson?

Uncoordinated movement can be a symptom of many underlying causes , from viral infections to head injuries to Parkinson’s disease. Symptoms of ataxia can be a sign that you may have a disorder of the nervous system or a part of the brain that coordinates movement (known as the cerebellum).

Does exercise help ataxia?

Neuromotor exercises and physical therapy focusing on coordination and balance has been shown to improve or halt the progression of functional decline and are the mainstay treatments for Ataxia . The evidence has shown that balance training could improve the quality of walking as well as reduce the risk of falls.

What kind of doctor treats ataxia?

The National Ataxia Foundation has compiled a list of neurologists across the United States and in some countries who see patients who have Ataxia or other movement disorders.

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