Ataxia

Ataxia nervous system

Last Updated December 20th, 2021

Overview of Ataxia

Neurological diseases are becoming increasingly common in all age groups and demographic groups throughout the world. These mainly arise from the abnormalities in the peripheral and the central nervous systems. Ataxia is one such disorder which is characterized by uncoordinated muscle movements and an abnormal gait. It affects adults and children alike.

 

What is Ataxia?

Ataxia is a neurological manifestation marked by a partial or a complete absence of muscular movements. A main feature of Ataxia is an abnormality in gait. Studies have shown that the abnormalities of the disease arise from dysfunctions of a part of the nervous system that regulates muscular movements, such as cerebellum. Ataxia can be unilateral or bilateral, that is it may affect only one or both sides of the body respectively.

 

What causes Ataxia?

Ataxia is precipitated by a number of factors which are listed below-

  • Focal lesions: Focal lesions of the central nervous system (caused by stroke, brain tumor, multiple sclerosis) can lead to Ataxia. Based on the location it is known as cerebellar, sensory (dorsal spinal cord) and vestibular.
  • Exogenous substances: Exogenous substances tend to have a depressant effect on the central nervous system. Some of these substances such as ethanol can cause reversible cerebellar and vestibular ataxia.
  • Toxicity: Ataxia may result from radiation poisoning when the dose absorbed exceeds 30 Grays.
  • Vitamin B12 deficiency: It may induce overlapping cerebellar and sensory ataxia.
  • Hypothyroidism: Reduced activities of the thyroid gland may cause ataxia.
  • Cerebellar degeneration: Cerebellar degeneration caused by head injury, alcohol abuse, cerebral oedema, celiac disease and post-infectious cerebellitis can culminate in ataxia.
  • Genetics: A few hereditary conditions that are found to induce Ataxia are Niemann Pick disease, Fragile X syndrome etc, all of which are autosomal dominant disorders.
  • Arnold-Chiari malformation: This disease is characterized by a downward displacement of the cerebellar tonsils and the medulla through the foramen magnum. It is responsible for ataxia at birth.
  • Succinic Semialdehyde Dehydrogenase Deficiency: It is an autosomal recessive gene disorder, which is caused by mutations in the ALDH5A1 gene. This, in turn, leads to the build-up of gamma-Hydroxybutyric acid (GHB) in the nervous system and can cause ataxia.
  • Wilson’s disease: It leads to an accumulation of excess copper in this body due to an alteration in the ATP7B gene. This affects the nervous system and the liver and leads to Ataxia.
  • Sodium-potassium pump: Several studies have proved that malfunctions of the sodium-potassium pump can lead to Ataxia.

 

What are the different types of Ataxia?

Ataxia cerebellumThree main types of Ataxia have been identified so far. These are described below-

Cerebellar Ataxia: As the name indicates, this type of Ataxia is caused by dysfunctions of the cerebellum. It is characterized by irregular and uncoordinated movements which present with asynergy, asthenia, dyschronometria and delayed reaction time. These people may also evince an unstable gait, abnormal eye movements, motor speech disorder (dysarthria), dysphagia, low muscle tone and dysmetria. The intensity of the abnormalities depends on the part of the cerebellum that is damaged and the nature of damage (bilateral or unilateral). Three conditions arise in this disease-

Dysfunctions of the vestibulocerebellum: It affects the flocculonodular lobe. This interferes with the balance and normal eye movements. The patient shows abnormalities in posture particularly while standing. They often stand with their legs apart in order to avoid tremor (titubation). The condition remains the same even when the person keeps his eyes open.

Dysfunctions of the spinocerebellum: The parts affected are the vermis and the areas in the vicinity of the midline. These people exhibit a wide-based gait which is called truncal ataxia. They usually take very fumble steps while walking. Nearly 74-93% of these patients fall while walking.

Dysfunctions of the cerebro-cerebellum: It affects the lateral hemispheres. The patients have problems in carrying out voluntary movements of the extremities. This is called Appendicular Ataxia. The main features are as follows-

  • Prominent trembling (intention tremor)
  • Problems in writing
  • Slurred speech (dysarthria)
  • Cannot perform very fast and alternating movements
  • Problems judging distances or range of movements
  • Loss of check reflex (rebound phenomenon)

Sensory ataxia: It is characterized by a loss of sensitivity to the positions of the joints and the body parts. Clinical diagnoses show certain dysfunctions of the dorsal column of the spinal cord. This inhibits the transmission of proprioceptive information up to the brain. This results in the malfunctioning of the cerebellum, thalamus and the parietal lobe. The main symptoms are- unstable gait, heavy strikes during walking and abnormal posture while standing.

Vestibular ataxia: As the name implies, this disease is characterized by the dysfunctions of the vestibular systems. The common symptoms are- nausea, vomiting, and vertigo. Patients having chronic bilateral vestibular dysfunctions may not experience all these symptoms. Only the main characteristic symptom which is dysequilibrium is seen in such cases.

 

Diagnosis and treatment

Ataxia musclesThe main diagnostic test for Ataxia is the Romberg’s test. It is basically an examination of the neurological function for balance. This test checks for the presence of the three main senses required to maintain balance while standing namely-

  • Proprioception (perception of one’s body position in a given space)
  • Vestibular function (perception of one’s head position in space)
  • Vision (needed to monitor and change one’s position in a given space)

There is no complete cure for ataxia. The treatment includes reducing the severity of symptoms and helping the patient regain as much strength and mobility as possible. The specific treatment method will depend upon the exact cause of ataxia, whether it is due an inherited gene or due to any other condition (such as multiple sclerosis). Physiotherapy can help address issues such as bodily tremors, the stiffness of muscles, cramps, and sleep deprivation. The patient should also refer to occupational therapy, speech therapy, and orthopedic care for getting effective results from the overall treatment.

While there are no guaranteed preventive measures against ataxia, there are certain ways through which you can decrease the likelihood of this condition.  The first and foremost is getting proper vaccinations against infections such as chickenpox (one of the leading causes of ataxia). For adults, it is important to practice healthy dietary and lifestyle habits. Maintaining a healthy BMI, cholesterol level, and protection from toxic exposure can be helpful.

 

 

Dos and Don'ts

Dos
  • Refer to counselling and/or group therapies as a part of your treatment.
  • Take help of a walker or walking stick for moving around.
  • Consume a diet rich in essential vitamins and antioxidants. Drink adequate amount of water to prevent losing muscle mass.
Don'ts
  • Try to self-medicate and treat the symptoms of ataxia.
  • Ignore the symptoms of ataxia, especially if you are suffering from cerebral palsy or multiple sclerosis.
  • Expose yourself to harmful habits such as smoking and drinking. Also maintain safe distance from toxic metal contamination.

 

 

 

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Cordyceps: How the Caterpillar fungus works as a proven cancer-shield Strange as it may sound, but cordyceps or "caterpillar fungus", a fungus variety native to the Himalayas may…
GGt test
GGT – Gamma-Glutamyl Transferase Test GGT or gammaglutamyl transferase test is a liver function test that is used to detect the extent of…
green poop causes
Green poop : What are the reasons and how can you correct it Ever sneak a peek down the toilet only to shockingly find green poop? Why does our poop turn…
hYdroxycut pills
Hydroxycut: How safe are these so-called weight loss supplements? Hydroxycut is a blend of several different ingredients formulated to promote weight loss; powered by a key weight…
superfoods quinoa probiotics
10 fantastic Superfoods you need to include in your diet from today! What exactly are superfoods and how do they battle diseases? From losing weight to looking ravishing- these superfoods…
thyroid_scan
Thyroid Scan Thyroid scan is a diagnostic procedure that aims to view the thyroid gland and detect any growths or…
creatinine
Creatinine Test The level of creatinine in the blood is a significant indicator of the health of your kidneys. This…
Pelvic_ultrasound
Pelvic Ultrasound Pelvic ultrasound is a process where sound waves are used to create image of your pelvic region organs…
Mood swings
The real reasons for your mood swings and how to overcome them Are you prone to heated moods frequently? Do you also feel bouts of depressive feeling creeping up on…
Find all the instant ways to get rid of blackheads Blackheads - Not only are they aesthetically unappealing but if left untreated these can cause bacterial overgrowth on…
Did you know drinking alkaline water could be the healthier choice for you? Ever wondered how safe is your drinking water in terms of pH? Recent studies have revealed that Alkaline…
Ultrasound
Abdominal Ultrasound An abdominal ultrasound is used to visualize the organs inside your abdominal cavity including the liver, spleen, gall…
Crossfit with rope
CrossFit: Now get the perfectly sculpted body with this explosive gym routine CrossFit is a fitness regimen that makes use of high-intensity exercises in a shorter period to achieve muscle…
Is it possible to achieve full body detox with Master Cleanse? Master cleanse is a diet consisting of a lemonade based beverage, a salt water drink and a herbal…
Optavia diet
The features of an Optavia diet The Optavia diet endorses pre-packaged meals and snacks called "fuelings" that are tasty, low in calorie, and incorporates…
Tart Cherry: The healthiest excuse for taking that second serving of pie Tart cherry has been traditionally used in delectable desserts such as pies. Recent studies have revealed that its…
Hot cups for detox? Read all about the ancient technique of cupping Did you know inverted hot cups on your back can squeeze out and eject toxins from your body?…
carbamazepine
Carbamazepine / Tegretol test The carbamazepine is a drug that is used to treat epilepsy and the carbamazepine test is performed to…
Bromelain: 11 reasons why you should start adding pineapple to your pizza! If you didn't love pineapples already, here are some of the top health benefits that bromelain can bring…
Electric toothbrush vs manual toothbrush: Who wins the dental war? Manual brushes are ideal for kids as it is important to start slowly unlike the electric brushes which…
Chlorella: Therapeutic powers of the billion-year-old algae now within your reach Chlorella - A billion year old nutrient-rich algae that can potentially ward off cancers and high cholesterol; the…
How to correctly perform nasal irrigation using a Neti Pot? Neti pot has been a part of Ayurveda since centuries. This ancient tool is extremely effective in treating…
leptospira Igm test
Leptospira-IgM Test A Leptospira-IgM test is a blood test which is carried out to detect anti-Leptospira IgM antibody. Leptospirosis is…
Coffee Enema: Turn your favorite morning beverage into a powerful colon cleanser The wonders of coffee are not just limited to waking you up every morning. You can now use…
Helicobacter pylori IGA
Helicobacter Pylori – IgA Test The H.pylori IgA test is a blood test used to identify the level of IgA antigen in the…
Milk Thistle skin
Milk Thistle: Find possible cures for fatal diseases in these purple blooms Milk thistle is well-known for treating liver conditions. However, did you know that it comes with a plethora…
sleep deprivation
Don’t let your sleep deficit grow into memory loss or heart attack Why is sleep important for us? How could sleep deprivation harm you? We bet you didn't know about…
piles fissure fistula
Allopathy vs homeopathy vs ayurveda treatment for piles, fissures, and fistula Read to know the best form of treatment among allopathy, homeopathy,or ayurveda for piles, fissures, and fistula
myelogram
Myelography Myelography is an important diagnostic tool that is used to investigate and identify abnormalities in the spine and…
cytomegalovirus igm test
Cytomegalo Virus (CMV) – IgM Test The CMV antibodies include both IgM and IgG antibodies which are the immune system's response to a CMV…
glucose-tolerance
Oral Glucose Tolerance Test – GTT Glucose tolerance test (or Oral GTT) is used to detect the onset of diabetes or prediabetes conditions. It…
The right way to prepare Alfalfa sprouts at home Alfalfa or lusan ghas is not just a nutritious animal fodder. This flavonoid-rich herb has some amazing health…
woman with abdominal pain holding ovulation calendar
Ovulation – facts to know about ovulation Learn how and when ovulation occurs, demystify common misconceptions, identify symptoms, methods of detection and right period for…

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