What Are the Causes of Ataxia: A Detailed Guide

A category of neurological disorders is referred to as ataxia. Many different forms of ataxia exist. These include ataxia telangiectasia (AT), episodic ataxia, Friedreich's, MSA, and spinocerebellar ataxia. This disorder occurs when the cerebellum, a component of the brain, is injured. The symptoms of ataxia can be alleviated, but there is no cure.

Symptoms of Ataxia

Ataxia can display a wide range of symptoms. This will vary depending on what caused it. If inherited traits cause ataxia, they may be present at birth. Symptoms might appear at any age if they are the result of an injury or another health problem.

Symptoms may improve and then go away in some people. In the beginning, you may experience:

  • Inability to speak clearly or fluently, slurred or sluggish speech production, and difficulties in managing the volume, rhythm, and pitch of one's voice

Other signs and symptoms may include:

  • Symptoms of dysphagia and dyspnea, such as trouble swallowing, can lead to choking or coughing
  • Shaking, tremors, rhythmic, rapid, an involuntary trembling in body parts
  • Problems with balance and coordination that may eventually necessitate the use of a wheelchair
  • Depression is a result of the challenges of dealing with the disease
  • The development of ataxia telangiectasia in children is possible. In addition to seeming "a little shaky," a youngster may also have the following symptoms:
  • Eyes, ears, and other parts of the face with spider veins are prone to infection.

Friedreich's ataxia is a genetic, progressive form of ataxia that typically manifests between the ages of 10 and 15 years old.

Among them, the common symptoms are:

  1. Scoliosis or a sideways bend in the spine
  2. Weak heart muscles
  3. High arched feet

Diabetes and cardiac difficulties and issues with the spine, foot, heart, muscles, eyesight, and hearing may coexist with Friedreich's ataxia. This type of ataxia demands lifelong care for the patient.

Causes of Ataxia

Ataxia affects around 150,000 Americans every year. It can be due to a variety of factors. A few are inherited; others are acquired; some have no known cause.

Genetic: It's possible to inherit a mutant gene from one or both parents that cause ataxia. Ataxia may also be caused by a disordered gene inherited from your parents. Generic ataxia may manifest itself in several different ways. Some types of genetic ataxia are;

  • Dominant spastic ataxias
  • Ataxia with oculomotor apraxia
  • Ataxia telangiectasia
  • Dominant spinocerebellar ataxias (SCA)
  • Episodic ataxia
  • Friedreich's ataxia
  • Recessive spastic ataxias
  • Wilson’s disease

Acquired: Damage to the spinal cord or nerves can cause acquired ataxia. Injuries or illnesses could be to blame for the damage. Several possible causes of acquired ataxia include:

  • Brain hemorrhage
  • Brain tumors
  • Chickenpox
  • Cerebral palsy
  • Hydrocephalus (too much fluid accumulated in the brain)
  • Certain cancers or reactions
  • A deficiency of vitamin E or B12

It is possible to suffer from ataxia due to pharmaceutical reactions, alcohol or drug abuse, and exposure to poison.

Idiopathic: It's idiopathic ataxia when you don't have a disease or injury and no gene mutation that could have caused your ataxia. If your doctor cannot discover a medical cause for your ataxia symptoms, they will diagnose you with idiopathic ataxia.

Multiple system atrophy (MSA) is the most frequent form of idiopathic ataxia. This set of ataxias hasn't been explained by doctors. They may be caused by a mix of genetics and environmental factors.

Diagnosis of Ataxia

Doctors diagnose ataxia by taking into account a wide range of characteristics. To identify whether or not you have ataxia, your doctor will do a physical examination and inquire about your medical history. Patients with ataxia can also be diagnosed using additional testing, such as an EEG (electromyography). These are only a few examples:

  • Ataxia can be diagnosed through an imaging test called an MRI, which allows doctors to see your brain.
  • Determine if there is a stroke, tumor, or infection that could be causing the symptoms.
  • Hereditary ataxia can be confirmed through genetic testing.

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