As per the NHS 2021 the term Ataxia is used to describe a group of disorders that affect co-ordination, balance and speech. Generally when discussing ataxia we first think of the difficulty one has with the grading of movement. This can affect any part of the body from:
Fine motor tasks such as - writing, typing, sewing, doing buttons up on a shirt
Walking - causing difficulty grading your foot clearance
Balance - to maintain your balance many muscles need to continually contract to keep your centre of gravity inside your base of support. If you have difficulty with the grading of muscle contractions this will inevitably throw you off balance
As with many neurological conditions ataxia varies greatly from case to case therefor the exact symptoms and their severity can vary greatly.
Types of Ataxia
There are many different types of ataxia, which can be divided into three broad categories:
Acquired Ataxia – these symptoms develop after some sort of trauma, a stroke, multiple sclerosis (MS), a brain tumour, nutritional deficiencies, or other conditions that damage the brain or nervous system.
Hereditary Ataxia – these symptoms develop slowly over many years secondary to genetic factors.
Idiopathic late-onset Cerebellar Ataxia – In this case brain degenerates over time for reasons that are unclear
What causes ataxia?
Ataxia most commonly occurs as a result of damage to the cerebellum however it can also develop as a result of damage to other parts of the nervous system. This damage could be secondary to a stroke, MS, trauma to the brain or other genetic predisposing factors. Additionally other factors like the abuse of alcohol has been found to cause ataxia symptoms.
How ataxia is treated
The best way to treat ataxia is with a multidisciplinary approach. As mentioned before each person suffering from ataxia will have their own unique presentation of symptoms. Therefor it is important to get the right therapists involved to treat these deficits. Your rehabilitation team may include:
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