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What is Ataxia?

Ataxia is a clinical term used for problems that involve muscle coordination and control. People with ataxia can experience problems such as speech, balance, and movement. It is primarily a condition that involves poor muscle control causing clumsy voluntary actions or movements.

Ataxia often happens because of damage in one part of the brain responsible for controlling muscle coordination. The part is known as the cerebellum. Many conditions are there that cause ataxia such as tumors, brain, degeneration, stroke, multiple sclerosis, and genetic disorders.

Types of ataxia

Different types of ataxia are there such as:

  1. Hereditary types: Some hereditary types of ataxia involve:
    • Friedreich's ataxia: It is one of the most common types of ataxia and is caused by hereditary issues. An individual can experience the symptoms before the age of 25 however it can occur in older people as well. The signs are coordination, issues with balance, unclear speed, difficulty swallowing, unusual curvature of the spine, total or complete vision loss, losing sensation in the hands and feet.
    • Ataxia-telangiectasia (AT): Ataxia-telangiectasia (AT) is a rare type of ataxia and is also caused by hereditary problems. One can begin to experience symptoms in early childhood, however, they can occur later as well. The signs of this type are difficulty walking, slow speech, clusters of red blood vessels in the eyes, slow eye movements, weak immune system, and enhanced risk of cancer.
    • Spinocerebellar ataxias: Spinocerebellar ataxias is also a hereditary type of ataxia that involves affecting people from the age group of 25-40 years of age. The signs of the type are issues with coordination and balance, enhanced slurred speech, muscle stiffness, cramps, memory loss, slow eye actions, and reduced bladder control.
    • Episodic ataxia: It is also the hereditary type in which an individual experiences episodes of ataxia. This type involves mild symptoms such as issues with balance and coordination, slow speech, poor eye actions, vertigo, migraine, and tinnitus.
  2. Other ataxia types: There are other types of ataxia as well that are:
    • Acquired ataxia is among other types of ataxia affecting any group of individuals. It often grows fast within a few days and at times hours as well. However, it might improve soon and may even stay the same. It can also get worse with time.
    • Idiopathic late-onset cerebellar ataxia is another type of ataxia that often is experienced by people at the age of 50 however, it tends to get worse with time.
    • Ataxia with Vitamin E deficiency is a condition like Friedreich’s ataxia that happens due to issues with the body’s efficiency of Vitamin E in the diet. The symptoms of this type can be controlled with Vitamin E supplements.

Ataxia symptoms

There are varied ataxia symptoms an individual can experience. Hence, it is important to be aware of them. Here are the symptoms:

  • Issues when trying to balance and coordinate. It includes often falling, unstable gait, and clumsiness.
  • Facing issues with motor activities like writing, trying to pick objects, and difficulty when trying to button clothes.
  • Unclear speech
  • Muscle spasms
  • Issues when trying to eat or swallow
  • Eye actions that are unusual like slow eye movement

It is also crucial to understand the types of ataxia as symptoms can vary accordingly.

Ataxia causes

The ataxia causes are divided into three groups that are acquired, degenerative and hereditary causes. Here are the causes defined according to these groups:

Acquired causes

The acquired ataxia causes are:

  • Alcohol
  • Medications like phenobarbital, sedatives such as antiepileptic drugs, phenytoin, and chemotherapy
  • Toxins like lead or mercury
  • Insufficient amount of vitamins like E, B-1, B-12.
  • Thyroid problems including hypothyroidism and hypoparathyroidism
  • Sudden stroke due to blood
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Infections like HIV and Lyme disease
  • Paraneoplastic syndrome
  • Brain abnormalities
  • Head trauma
  • Cerebral palsy

Degenerative causes

The degenerative disease causes are:

  • Multiple system atrophy involving people around 50 years of age. It also involves conditions like bladder incontinence, fainting, blood pressure, etc.

Hereditary causes

The hereditary causes of ataxia include:

  • Friedreich's ataxia
  • Ataxia-telangiectasia
  • Spinocerebellar ataxias
  • Episodic ataxia

Ataxia diagnosis

Your doctor will ask for the clinical history before beginning the ataxia diagnosis. He/she might also ask about the medications and if you consume alcohol. After gaining the information, they will begin with the evaluations that are physical and neurological.

There are certain tests that your doctor will order to assess movements like coordination, balance, reflexes, muscle strength, vision, hearing, memory, and concentration.


Here are the tests your doctor might order:

  • Imaging tests will be ordered as it helps in viewing any anomalies or tumors.
  • Blood tests for determining the ataxia cause.
  • Lumbar puncture
  • Genetic tests to understand any genetic mutations.

Ataxia treatment

The ataxia treatment depends on the type of ataxia an individual has and the seriousness of it. In certain cases, treatment for the underlying cause like a vitamin deficiency or infection can comfort symptoms.

No cure is available for ataxia, however, certain interventions can help in easing or managing the symptoms enhancing your quality of life.

Here are some of the options for ataxia treatment:

  • Medications help treat the symptoms that happen due to ataxia. There are some instances such as muscle relaxants, antidepressants, and amitriptyline for nerve pain.
  • Assisted devices are also one of the finest ataxia treatment options such as wheelchairs and walkers to assist with mobility movements. Communication devices also can assist with speaking.
  • Physical therapy is recommended as it also benefits mobility and balance. It also assists in regaining flexibility and muscle strength.
  • Speech therapy is suggested so that speech becomes clear.
  • Occupational therapy is also recommended so that daily activity can be managed efficiently.

Why choose Calcutta Medical Research Institute for Ataxia Treatment?

The Calcutta Medical Research Institute is one of the renowned multi-speciality hospitals delivering healthcare services to its patients. With our best-in-class and advanced technology, we have managed to attain a reputable name across eastern India in the healthcare industry. Our healthcare professionals with their expertise ensure providing care and services to the patients as per their requirements and problems they are experiencing. We are committed to offering services filled with integrity, ethics, and reliability.

State-of-the-art technology assists in revolutionizing our healthcare services and assists us to make the treatment fast, economical, and free of risks. The latest and most advanced technology helps in delivering the finest surgical outcomes.

If you are experiencing ataxia, you should consult our professionals delivering the best treatment. They will ensure to diagnose the problem first and provide the treatment accordingly.


Which part of the brain is accountable for causing ataxia?

The cerebellum is part of the brain that is affected by ataxia however, the problem also can occur due to spinal cord damage and other nerves. The spinal cord is a nerve bundle running down the spine and connecting the brain to other parts of the human body.

How quickly does ataxia develop?

The onset of ataxia and the development rate are known to be the most useful medical features reflecting the cause. The ataxia begins to grow within a few weeks to months and takes time to go away, although that depends on the type of ataxia an individual is experiencing.

Is ataxia disease permanent?

Till now, there is no cure available for ataxia. The outlook relies on seriousness, type, and cause. The doctor recommends taking medications on time so that symptoms can be controlled. It can shorten the lifetime of a person but usually, the lifespan is the same for every individual

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