Ataxia is a condition characterized by the inability to exercise voluntary muscle control, such as walking and lifting and holding objects with the hands.

As a sign of serious illness, the condition can affect movement, speech, eye movements and swallowing.

When the condition is persistent it is usually a consequence of damage to the cerebellum, whose function is to control muscle coordination.

Many diseases can cause an inability to control muscle movements such as alcohol abuse, stroke, tumor, cerebral palsy and multiple sclerosis.

An inherited altered gene can also cause the condition.

What are the symptoms?

Impaired control of voluntary muscle movements may progress gradually or appear suddenly.

Ataxia as a sign of a number of neurological disorders can cause:

• Unsteady gait and tendency to stumble easily;

• Difficulty performing more specific motor activities such as eating, writing or buttoning a garment;

• Speech disorders;

• Involuntary up and down movements of the eyes – nystagmus;

• Difficulty swallowing;

• Affected individuals have poor coordination;

When to seek medical attention?

If you do not have an established medical condition that can cause involuntary muscle movements, such as multiple sclerosis, seek medical attention if:

• You often suddenly lose your balance;
• You cannot control the movements of your arms, hands or legs;
• You blend letters or words when speaking;
• You have difficulty swallowing food and liquids;

What are the causes?

Damage, degeneration or death of neurons in the cerebellum causes the condition.

The human cerebellum consists of two folded parts about the size of ping-pong balls located at the base of the cerebrum near the brainstem.

The right side of the cerebellum controls muscle coordination on the right side of the body, and the left side controls the coordination on the left.

Diseases that cause damage to the spinal cord and peripheral nerves that connect the cerebellum to the muscles can also cause an inability to coordinate muscle movements.

Possible causes are:

Head trauma – damage to the brain or spine from a blow to the head, such as can happen in a car accident, can cause a sudden loss of muscle coordination.

Stroke – when the blood flow to a part of the brain is interrupted or severely limited, depriving the brain tissue of oxygen and nutrients, the nerve cells that make it up begin to die. It was found that after only 4 minutes of interruption of the cross-supply to the brain, 32,000 neurons die.

Transient ischemic attack /TMA/ – is caused by a temporary reduction in blood flow to part of the brain, in most cases the condition lasts only a few minutes and the loss of coordination is only temporary.


Treatment of ataxia

There is no specific treatment for the condition. In most cases, curing the underlying disease leads to recovery of muscle coordination.

And sometimes, when the condition is the result of chicken pox or other viral infections, the ability to control voluntary muscle movements returns some time after the infection has cleared.

But when ataxia is caused by a disease such as multiple sclerosis or multiple sclerosis, the condition does not lend itself to treatment.

In this case, the attending physician recommends the use of adaptive devices such as:
• Canes or walkers for walking;
• Modified eating utensils;
• Communication devices for speaking;

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