Incoordination and clumsiness that may affect balance and gait , limb and eye movements, and/or speech.
Ataxia may be the result of damage to the cerebellum (the part of the brain concerned with coordination) or to nerve pathways in the brainstem (a stalk of nerve tissue linking the brain to the spinal cord) and/or spinal cord. Possible causes include injury to the brain or spinal cord. In adults, ataxia may be caused by alcohol intoxication;a stroke or brain tumour affecting the cerebellumor brainstem; a disease of the balance organ in the ear; or multiple sclerosis or other types of nerve degeneration. In children, causes include acute infection, brain tumours, and the inherited condition Friedreich's ataxia.
Symptoms of ataxia depend on the site of damage within the nervous system, although a lurching, unsteady gait is common to most forms. In addition, damage to certain parts of the brain may cause nystagmus (jerky eye movements) and slurred speech.
Diagnosis and Treatment
CT scanning or MRI (techniques that produce cross-sectional or three-dimensional images of body structures) may be used to determine the cause of ataxia. Treatment of the condition depends on the cause.