Ataxia is a neurological condition that affects a person’s ability to coordinate their movements, balance, and speech. People with ataxia may experience problems with walking, talking, writing, or performing everyday activities. Ataxia is caused by damage to the cerebellum, a part of the brain that is responsible for controlling muscle coordination and balance. It can be inherited or acquired through a variety of causes, including stroke, traumatic brain injury, multiple sclerosis, and certain medications. The severity of ataxia depends on the extent of the damage to the cerebellum.

Ataxia can be divided into three main categories: hereditary ataxia, acquired ataxia, and idiopathic ataxia. Hereditary ataxia is caused by an inherited gene defect and is usually passed down from one family member to another. Acquired ataxia is caused by damage to the cerebellum from a stroke, traumatic brain injury, multiple sclerosis, or certain medications. Idiopathic ataxia is the most common form of ataxia and is believed to be caused by an unknown factor or combination of factors.

The most common symptoms of ataxia include difficulty walking (known as gait ataxia), difficulty speaking (known as dysarthria), and loss of coordination (known as limb ataxia). Other symptoms include difficulty with writing, difficulty with fine motor skills, and tremor. People with ataxia may also experience dizziness, blurred vision, and nausea.

Diagnosis of ataxia is based on a physical examination, medical history, and neurological tests. Imaging tests, such as CT scans or MRI scans, can be used to determine the extent of brain damage. Genetic testing may also be used to identify hereditary ataxias.

Treatment for ataxia depends on the underlying cause. For acquired ataxia, treatment may include physical or occupational therapy to improve coordination and balance, speech therapy to improve speech, and medications to reduce dizziness and nausea. In some cases, surgery may be needed to repair damaged areas of the brain. For hereditary ataxias, treatment may include medications to reduce symptoms, genetic counseling, and lifestyle modifications.

Ataxia can have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life. People with ataxia may need assistance with everyday activities and may be at higher risk for falls and injuries. It is important for people with ataxia to work with their healthcare team to develop a personalized treatment plan that meets their individual needs.


Alvarez-Jimenez, M., Cuesta-Vargas, A. I., & Palma, J. A. (2017). Ataxia: Diagnosis and treatment. Acta Neurologica Scandinavica, 136(1), 23-30.

Ayzenberg, I., & Ozelius, L. J. (2017). Hereditary ataxias: Diagnosis, management, and treatment. Current Neurology and Neuroscience Reports, 17(1), 1-10.

Kumar, S. N., Parihar, V. S., & Jain, S. (2015). Ataxia: an overview. Indian Journal of Neurotrauma, 12(2), 121-125.

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. (2018). Ataxia information page. Retrieved from

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