Awareness


Overview

Ataxia describes a lack of muscle control or coordination of voluntary movements, such as walking or picking up objects. A sign of an underlying condition, ataxia can affect various movements, creating difficulties with speech, eye movement and swallowing.

Persistent ataxia usually results from damage to the part of your brain that controls muscle coordination (cerebellum). Many conditions can cause ataxia, including alcohol abuse, certain medications, stroke, tumor, cerebral palsy, brain degeneration and multiple sclerosis. Inherited defective genes also can cause the condition.

Treatment for ataxia depends on the cause. Adaptive devices, such as walkers or canes, might help you maintain your independence. Physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy and regular aerobic exercise also might help.

Symptoms

Poor coordination

Unsteady walk and a tendency to stumble

Difficulty with fine motor tasks

Change in speech


When to see a doctor

Damage, degeneration or loss of nerve cells in the part of your brain that controls muscle coordination (cerebellum), results in ataxia. Your cerebellum comprises two pingpong-ball-sized portions of folded tissue situated at the base of your brain near your brainstem.

The right side of your cerebellum controls coordination on the right side of your body; the left side of your cerebellum controls coordination on the left.

If you aren't aware of having a condition that causes ataxia, such as multiple sclerosis, see your doctor as soon as possible if you have one of the symptoms on the right:

Lose balance

Lose muscle coordination

Have difficulty walking

Slur your speech

Have difficulty swallowing