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Ataxia is a movement disorder that affects a person’s coordination, balance, and ability to control voluntary muscle movements. The disease can affect:
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.
Our neurologists complete groundbreaking research to offer the latest neurological care for even the most complex brain and spine disorders. Ask us if you are a candidate for one of our clinical research trials.
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.
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.
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:
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.