Ataxia: What Does It Mean?

Ataxia is a neurological condition that affects movement. In ataxia, you find it difficult to move the parts of your body the way you want to. Or an uncontrolled movement of arms and legs occurs even when you don't want it.

The term "ataxia" actually refers to a lack of coordination.

Having ataxia doesn't mean you've got a sickness or a disorder of your own; it's an indication of something else. Ataxias have been identified in as many as 50 to 100 different ways. They are categorized according to what causes them or where they impact the body.

Types of Ataxia

Ataxia occurs because of the damage to different parts of the central nervous system. Based on the part of the brain that is most damaged, doctors categorize it as;

  • Cerebellar (brain)
  • Vestibular (ears)
  • Sensory (nerves)

1.   Cerebellar Ataxia

The cerebellum is the part of your brain responsible for maintaining balance and coordination. Cerebellar ataxia can occur if a part of your cerebellum begins to deteriorate. The spinal cord is not immune to the condition. In terms of ataxia, it's the most prevalent type. The following symptoms characterize cerebellar ataxia:

  • Voice changes
  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Headaches
  • Muscle tremors
  • Slurred speech
  • Wide gait
  • Trouble walking

2.   Sensory Ataxia

Damage to nerves in the spinal cord or the peripheral nervous system can cause sensory ataxia. This part of your nervous system exists outside your brain and spinal cord.

When you have sensory ataxia due to nerve damage to the feet and legs, you are less able to feel any sensation in your legs and feet. Proprioceptive ataxia is another name for it. Sensory Ataxia has the following symptoms:

  • You can’t touch your nose with your finger with closed eyes
  • A lack of sensitivity to vibrations
  • Difficulty in walking in dim light
  • Stomping while walking or experiencing heavy steps

3.   Vestibular Ataxia

Vestibular Ataxia damages your vestibular system. Inner ears and ear canals containing fluid exist in this system. They sense the movements of your head and help with spatial orientation and balance. You may experience the following symptoms if your vestibular system is damaged:

  • Vomiting and feeling sick
  • Standing and sitting issues
  • Stumbling when you walk
  • Having difficulty keeping a straight line of progression
  • A feeling of dizziness or disorientation

Symptoms of Ataxia

Ataxia can cause a wide range of symptoms, including:

  • Crumbling or unsteady walk, or a tendency to trip over small items; difficulties doing fine motor skills such as writing or buttoning clothing; slurred or confused speech.
  • Tremors or spasms of the muscles
  • Nystagmus – a type of involuntary eye movement which is slower-than-normal eye movement
  • Difficulty with swallowing

Ataxia symptoms might vary depending on the type and severity of ataxia, so keep this in mind.

The Final Verdict

Ataxia is a condition in which a person's muscles cannot coordinate and control each other. Movement, fine motion activities, and keeping one's balance are among the difficulties faced by those with ataxia. Ataxia can be passed down genetically or acquired or sometimes have no apparent reason. When it comes to ataxia's manifestations, course, and onset age, there are several options.

You may alleviate ataxia symptoms if the root cause is addressed. Other alternatives for managing symptoms and improving quality of life include physical therapy, assistive devices, and medications.

If you're experiencing symptoms like slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, or a loss of coordination that any other medical issue can't explain, you should see a doctor. It is essential to coordinate with your doctor to determine the cause of your symptoms and develop a treatment plan.

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