health Apr 23, 2022

Ataxia is not a disease, but it is a sign of an underlying medical problem.
In Ataxia, muscle coordination will be lost and it affects voluntary movements such as a person's speech, eye movements, and movements of fingers, hands, arms, legs, and ability to swallow, walk, and pick up objects.
The word Ataxia is derived from Greek which means "lack of order"
The cerebellum of the brain is responsible for the posture, balance, speech and coordination of movement in the body.
During the movement of any part of the body, electrical signals are transmitted from brain to peripheral nerves of muscles of that part through the spinal cord, so that the muscles get stimulated to contract and the movement is initiated.
Regarding the posture and balance of the body, the sensory nerves of that particular part of the body collect information from the surroundings and transmit to the brain.
For a purposeful movement, the cerebellum of brain receives this information, vision from the eyes and balance from the vestibular system of the inner ear.
Failure of any one or more of these pathway components can lead to impaired coordination called ataxia.
Ataxia maybe inherited or acquired due to structural damage to the cerebellum or spinal cord. Ataxia may occur due to excessive alcohol consumption or it may also result from certain immunological disorders and infections.
If it is hereditary, people will born with ataxia due to genetic defect.
Structural damage to the brain or spinal cord caused by any injury, decreases blood supply to or invades into brain tissue, including cerebellum. This may lead to trauma and bleeding, stroke or tumour, and multiple sclerosis.
Ataxia may be different types.
Cerebellar ataxia is caused due to the temporary or permanent abnormalities and damage, to the cerebellum. It affects the person's balance, eye movement control, and persons may have problems like slurred speech, unusual walk with unequal sideways steps and stumbling starts and stops, trembling of head, eyes, limbs, and chest.
Sensory ataxia is caused due to damage to the parts of the brain that are involved in the interpretation of the information. Sensory ataxia results in unsteady, stomping walk and hard to perform coordinated voluntary movements with the limbs, trunk, pharynx, larynx, and eyes.
Vestibular ataxia occurs due to the loss of balance which is the result of failure of proper functioning of the vestibular canals of ear.
In acute (sudden) unilateral cases, vestibular ataxia causes vertigo, nausea, and vomiting. In chronic bilateral cases, it causes unsteadiness.
Spinocerebellar ataxia is caused by a recessive or dominant autosomal gene. It is a rare inherited neurological disorder of the brain and spinal cord.
Infection, head injury, prescription drugs, and toxins such as banned drugs, lead and carbon monoxide poisoning cause ataxia in children known as acute post-infectious cerebellar ataxia. Most children return to normal without treatment.
Ataxia telangiectasia (A-T) is an immunodeficiency disease caused by the failure of the immune system affecting a number of different organs in the body.


Poisonings such as mercury, lead, carbon monoxide  poisoning, hormonal abnormalities, malnutrition, vitamin B12 deficiency, brain haemorrhage, stroke, head injury, multiple sclerosis, hypothyroidism, certain chemicals, chronic exposure to certain drugs, a variety of prescription medications including lithium and medications used to treat seizure disorders, recreational drugs like PCP, ketamine, and marijuana and excessive alcohol consumption cause ataxia.
Immunological disorders and infections may also cause ataxia.

Diagnosis of ataxia

Confirmation of a diagnosis takes time because the symptoms could point to several other conditions.
A person with signs of ataxia has to visit a neurologist and has to go through the following tests upon his advice. They are:
Imaging studies MRI or CT scan, to look for lesions, tumours, or other forms of brain damage
Genetic testing to determine the gene mutation that causes one of the hereditary ataxic conditions.
Blood tests, as some types of ataxia can affect blood composition
Urine tests that reveal systemic changes which occur in some forms of ataxia
Lumbar puncture to remove a sample of cerebrospinal fluid from lower back (lumbar region) between two lumbar bones (vertebrae) and the sample is sent to a laboratory for testing.
If ataxia is sporadic or idiopathic, cannot have an identifiable cause.


Avoiding exposure to poisonings, intake of nutritious food, avoiding recreational drugs and excessive alcohol consumption may prevent some types of acquired ataxia.


Protein, fats, and complex carbohydrates such as unsweetened fruits, starchy vegetables, legumes, rice, and pasta, fibre rich diet, and gluten-free diet are recommended.
Plenty of water i.e. 6 to 8-glasses/day should be taken.
Processed meats with additives and preservatives, foods sweetened with high fructose corn syrup, sugar, artificial sweetener, cookies, cakes, candies, pastries, white flour, and fruit juice should be avoided.
Citrus fruits, bananas or foods with bananas as ingredients, bacon, hot dogs, sausage, ham, smoked fish, raw onions, raisins, dried fruits, dates, fig, cold drinks also should be avoided.


A. Sandhya

M.Sc Zoology

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