Ataxia is a movement disorder that affects a person’s coordination, balance, and ability to control voluntary muscle movements. The disease can affect:
- Walking and sitting
- Fine motor abilities such as holding a fork
- Eye movement
As ataxia progresses, muscles respond less and less to the brain’s commands, making symptoms increasingly noticeable. Ataxia can sometimes be life threatening if you have severe respiratory or cardiac problems.
If trouble with voluntary muscle movement is making everyday tasks difficult, find a neurologist affiliated with the Dignity Health Neurological Institute of Northern California for the support you need. We have fellowship-trained specialists that can help you manage and treat movement disorders, such as ataxia, in the Sacramento region.
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The signs and symptoms of ataxia can appear suddenly or develop slowly. You will first notice coordination problems, including unsteady walking and fumbling with writing or eating. You also may have slow or involuntary eye movements, difficulty swallowing, or speech problems such as slurring words. When ataxia is due to a progressive disorder, symptoms get worse over time. Acute (sudden) ataxia may be reversible when promptly diagnosed and treated by our experts.
Causes of Ataxia
Damage to the cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls muscle coordination, often causes ataxia. This damage can result from other neurological conditions , including stroke, cerebral palsy, and multiple sclerosis. Other causes include a brain tumor, head injury, alcoholism, a toxic reaction from certain medications, and lack of sufficient vitamin E or vitamin B12.
Some people inherit a defective gene that causes the wearing away (degeneration) of nerve cells in the brain, which can lead to ataxia. Many different gene defects are known to cause ataxia.
Personalized Ataxia Treatment in the Greater Sacramento Area
How Dignity Health specialists treat ataxia depends on the underlying cause. When ataxia is a symptom of another medical condition, such as a vitamin deficiency, sometimes treating the condition will resolve coordination problems. However, with some neurological conditions, including multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy, ataxia may never go away.
Our neurologists offer several options for ataxia treatment:
- Physical therapy teaches you exercises that will help you rebuild strength and improve mobility.
- Occupational therapy assists with everyday tasks such as eating or learning to use a wheelchair. The therapist might also suggest making alterations to your home for better accessibility.
- Speech and language therapy can help improve both speech and swallowing.
- Vitamin E or B12 supplements may be helpful.
- Medication can be prescribed to reduce muscle spasms and stiffness, correct abnormal eye movements, or to relieve other symptoms.
No matter your neurological condition, look to Dignity Health for personal care. Our team of specialists collaborate to make sure that you have the tools you need to live comfortably with ataxia. Make an appointment today. With skill and expertise, neurologists at Dignity Health Neurological Institute of Northern California can diagnose and treat ataxia in the Greater Sacramento area.