Ataxia is a sign of dysfunction in the neurologic system. Ataxia can occur following a stroke, brain injury, or a hereditary disorder (Friedrichs ataxia) and typically involves some sort of damage to the cerebellum. This can result in clumsy, shaky, and/or uncoordinated movement.
Where is the “coordination center” in the brain?
The cerebellum is in the back of the brain and is responsible for balance, coordination, and fine motor movements. The cerebellum receives information from the sensory systems, the spinal cord, and other parts of the brain to regulate movement. One way to understand the function of the cerebellum is to think of it as a control center. As it receives the information from these different areas it helps to produce smooth, coordinated movements.
What causes ataxia?
Ataxia is a symptom of a problem in the cerebellum. The following is a brief list of issues that may affect the cerebellum to function normally.
- Brain Tumor
- Brain Lesion (Multiple Sclerosis)
- Hereditary Disorders
- B12 Deficiency
How is ataxia diagnosed?
A neurologist is knowledgeable in diagnosing ataxia. Providing a thorough history can be extremely valuable. The following is a list of things to think about prior to your visit to the physician.
- Thorough medical history: including childhood diseases (polio, meningitis….etc)
- Drug History (prescription and recreational)
- Alcohol use
- Family Medical History
- Recent falls
- History of sports activity (primarily contact sports)
What is the treatment for ataxia?
Physical therapy will include functional training, balance retraining and coordination activities to help improve normal movement patterns and decrease the risk of falls.
Occupational therapy will work on practicing activities of daily living including bathing, dressing, grooming….etc.
Finding the right physician who understands movement disorders and the neurologic system is important. A Neurologist or a physician of physical medicine (also called a physiatrist) are very knowledgeable in deciding if a medication can help to control some of the movement related symptoms.