Types of Ataxia
Hereditary ataxia is a type of genetic ataxia that is characterised by slow-onset symptoms that may take years to develop and gradually deteriorate. The most regularly documented form of hereditary ataxia is Friedreich’s ataxia.
Idiopathic late-onset cerebellar ataxia is a form of the condition in which the brain is slowly damaged over time for no clear reason.
Causes of Ataxia
As there are many types of ataxia, there are numerous causes for the condition. All types of ataxia are caused by damage, degeneration or a loss of nerve cells in the cerebellum, which is responsible for muscle coordination in the brain.
The conditions that can cause this damage include strokes, head trauma, infections such as chickenpox, autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis and cerebral palsy. Additionally, external factors such as nutrient deficiencies, toxic reactions or reactions to particular medications can cause ataxia. Alcohol and drug intoxication or withdrawal are also responsible for causing ataxia.
In some cases, there is no found cause for ataxia in patients who develop sporadic ataxia.
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Symptoms of Ataxia
Ataxia can impact any part of the body, although it is most common for people to experience problems with balance and walking, which may cause them to stumble or have an unsteady gait. Having difficulty swallowing, eating or writing or talking with slurred speech are also frequently observed symptoms of ataxia.
Other common symptoms of ataxia also include headaches, tremors and dizziness. In some cases, patients may also develop the condition nystagmus, which causes rapid involuntary back-and-forth eye movements.
Children with ataxia may also experience frequent infections or spider veins in the whites of their eyes or ears.
Ataxia conditions are on a spectrum, and therefore the severity of each symptom will differ from person to person.
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