Ataxia is a disorder affecting the coordination of voluntary movements that is often due to nerve damage. This condition does not directly affect muscles, and muscle strength is preserved. The disorder may occur while a person is standing, walking or executing other movements. The problem causing the symptoms may be at the level of information processing, especially in locomotor ataxia that occurs while walking (proprioceptive ataxia), or in the ability to coordinate the movement where the problem is located in the cerebellum (cerebellar ataxia). It can also sometimes be caused by a problem with the inner ear (vestibular ataxia).
Ataxia is characterized by:
- a disorder of gait and balance;
- frequent falls;
- imprecise movements.
In children, certain viral infections, such as chickenpox, can cause so-called "acute" ataxias. They disappear spontaneously within a few days.
Neurological and musculoskeletal examinations help to diagnose ataxia and depending on the results, to conclude that whether the origin is in the brain, or due to peripheral nerve damage. Examination by an ENT in some cases may be helpful to identify a possible problem with the inner ear. The location of the lesion can be detected with an MRI centered on the area suspected of being involved.
Like with any rare disease, research on the topic of ataxia is seldom. There is no specific treatment other than treatments for the causes of ataxia. Rehabilitative and psychological support is essential for well-being of the patient.