Table of Content:
What is Ataxia?
Ataxia means loss of control over bodily movements and is a sign of an underlying condition. Ataxia describes a lack of muscle coordination or control while performing voluntary movements. This disorder can affect eating, eye movements, and speech. Various conditions can cause ataxia, including alcohol abuse, certain medications, stroke, cerebral palsy, brain degeneration, and brain tumours and there are several Ataxia treatment options available as well.
Risk factors and causes of ataxia
Many may wonder about Ataxia’s meaning and its causes, and risk factors. Ataxia is the result of damage, degeneration, or loss of nerve cells in the part of the brain that controls muscle coordination, the cerebellum. The cerebellum is situated in the base of the brain and controls balance, eye movements, swallowing, and speech. Damage to the nerves or spinal cord that connect the cerebellum to the muscles can also lead to ataxia. Here are some of the causes of ataxia:
Hereditary causes for ataxia
Inheritance of cerebellar ataxias can be of two types, autosomal dominant and autosomal recessive. Autosomal dominant disorders can be acquired if only one allele of the mutated gene is passed on from a parent to the offspring, whereas autosomal recessive conditions require both alleles of the disease-associated gene for it to manifest.
Autosomal dominant cerebellar ataxias include Spinocerebellar Ataxia and Episodic Ataxia. Spinocerebellar ataxia can be caused by 40 different types of genes and all have common symptoms of cerebellar ataxia and degeneration.
Autosomal recessive cerebellar ataxias include Friedreich’s ataxia, ataxia telangiectasia, congenital cerebellar ataxia, and Wilson’s disease. Ataxia-telangiectasia is a rare childhood disorder that is also associated with immune system dysfunction, making the child prone to malignancies such as lymphomas and leukaemias.
Symptoms of ataxia
Though ataxias can develop suddenly or slowly over a period of time, it is important to identify the first signs:
If you feel that you are losing balance easily, have difficulty while speaking, or have lost muscle coordination in your arm, hand, or leg, it is important to visit your physician for further evaluation.
Types of ataxia
Ataxia can be divided into different types based on the region affected:
Complications of ataxia
Different types of ataxias may lead to different complications. Difficulty in breathing, choking may eventually even lead to death in some cases. Inability to move can lead to life-threatening complications such as pressure sores, injury, and blood clots. Other complications associated with ataxia are:
How is it Diagnosed?
The treating physician begins by taking a full medical and family history, after which a complete physical and neurological examination is done. Here is a list of other investigations that may be done:
Treatment of ataxia
There is no specific treatment for ataxia. Identifying the underlying cause is most important, which can help in the resolution of symptoms. In most cases, treatment is only given to prevent complications, manage symptoms, and advise adaptive strategies to make life easier.
Adaptive devices. Ataxia that cannot be cured due to causes such as a stroke or multiple sclerosis can be managed by the use of adaptive devices such as walkers to aid in movement, communication aids for speaking, and modified utensils and cutlery for eating.
Other therapies that are offered include:
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