What is ataxia?
Ataxia is a term for lack of coordination and muscle control of voluntary movements, such as walking, eye movements, swallowing, or picking up objects. It can affect people of all ages. Complications can be serious, often debilitating, and some types of ataxias can shorten the patient’s life.
Persistent ataxia usually results from brain damage to the cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls and coordinates muscles. Over time, muscles become increasingly less responsive to messages from the brain, causing balance and coordination to worsen.
Hereditary ataxia is caused by inheriting a defective gene from one’s parent(s). Acquired ataxia symptoms are due to an external cause - something that happens to a person, such as an injury, stroke, alcohol abuse, cerebral palsy or multiple sclerosis.
There is no cure for ataxia, and treatment depends on the cause. Adaptive devices can help with mobility, medications help control symptoms, and physical or speech therapy often helps the patient maintain independence and improves their quality of life.