There are three different types of ataxia. Each type has many possible causes.
Types[change | change source]
Cerebellar ataxia[change | change source]
Cerebellar ataxia is ataxia that is caused by a problem with a person's cerebellum. The cerebellum is the part of the brain that controls balance and coordination. It makes the body move smoothly and controls movements like walking.
- Controlling how hard their muscles contract, how fast, and in what direction
- Getting their muscles to work together (asynergy)
- Walking (gait abnormality)
- Moving their eyes
- Swallowing (dysphagia)
- Saying words (dysarthria)
- Judging how far away something is (dysmetria)
- Reacting quickly
Sensory ataxia[change | change source]
Sensory ataxia is caused by the loss of proprioception (knowing where parts of the body are). It is usually caused by damage to the parts of the spinal cord that carry information about proprioception to the brain. However, it can also be caused by damage to the parts of the brain that receive that information (the cerebellum, the thalamus, and the parietal lobes of the brain).
A person with sensory ataxia may have these symptoms:
- They may have trouble walking. They may stomp their feet and hit their heels hard against the ground while they walk
- Trouble walking that gets worse when the person cannot see well
Vestibular ataxia[change | change source]
Along with balance problems, people with vestibular ataxia may have:
Causes[change | change source]
There are many different causes of ataxia. The National Ataxia Foundation breaks up these causes into three categories: acquired, genetic, and idiopathic.
Acquired ataxia[change | change source]
A person is not born with acquired ataxia. Acquired means that something happened during the person's life to cause the ataxia.
Causes of acquired ataxia can include:
- Stroke, brain tumor, or multiple sclerosis
- A person can acquire (get) any of the three types of ataxia from these problems in the brain, depending on where the problem happens. For example, if a person has a brain tumor in their cerebellum, they may get cerebellar ataxia. If the tumor is in the vestibular system, the person may get vestibular ataxia.
- Spinal cord injuries
- Problems that damage parts of the cerebellum. These problems can include:
- Mercury poisoning
- Radiation poisoning
- Vitamin B12 deficiency (not having enough vitamin B12 in the body)
Genetic (hereditary) ataxia[change | change source]
Idiopathic ataxia[change | change source]
Idiopathic means that doctors cannot find a cause for a person's ataxia.
Idiopathic ataxias often cause symptoms that come and go. Many doctors and scientists think these ataxias are caused by a combination of things inside the body (like gene problems) and things outside the body (like the things happening in a person's life). However, they are still researching the causes of idiopathic ataxias.
Treatment[change | change source]
Ataxia can be treated. However, treatment usually does not make ataxia go away completely.
- Physical therapy
- Occupational therapy
- Using a cane or walker to help with balance
Some people with severe ataxia may need to use wheelchairs.
Related pages[change | change source]
References[change | change source]
- "Frequently Asked Questions About... Ataxia" (PDF). National Ataxia Foundation. Retrieved September 18, 2016.
- Schmahmann JD (2004). "Disorders of the cerebellum: ataxia, dysmetria of thought, and the cerebellar cognitive affective syndrome". J Neuropsychiatry Clin Neurosci. 16 (3): 367–78. doi:10.1176/appi.neuropsych.16.3.367. PMID 15377747.
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- "Frequently Asked Questions About... Ataxia Classification" (PDF). National Ataxia Foundation. Retrieved September 18, 2016.
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