Ataxia describes the inability to control voluntary muscle movements, which can cause problems with balance, walking (gait), speech, swallowing, and eye movements. It is a sign of an underlying condition.
Persistent ataxia is usually due to disease or injury to the cerebellum, the part of the brain that coordinates voluntary movements.
Ataxia can also be caused by diseases that damage the spinal cord and peripheral nerves.
Who gets cerebellar ataxia?
Cerebellar ataxia can affect anyone. Abnormalities in the cerebellum may be acquired, inherited, or have no identifiable cause.
How is cerebellar ataxia diagnosed?
When diagnosing ataxia, your doctor will try to determine the underlying cause. Tests may include:
- Physical and neurological examinations
- Imaging studies, such an MRI scan or a CT scan
- Lumbar puncture (spinal tap)
- Genetic testing
- Bblood and urine tests
- Nerve conduction studies
Symptoms, which can develop over time or begin suddenly, may include:
- Unsteady walk
- Difficulty with fine motor tasks, such as writing or buttoning a shirt
- Changes in speech
- Difficulty swallowing
- Vision problems
- Cognitive and emotional problems
- Increased fatigue
Cerebellar ataxia is treated by addressing the underlying cause of the problems with your cerebellum. In some instances, like cerebellar inflammation caused by a viral infection, the condition will resolve on it’s own over time.
Other causes of cerebellar ataxia may require surgery or medication.
Physical, occupational, and speech therapies may be recommended if the underlying condition cannot be identified or treated.
- Date of last review: December 7, 2016