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You are here : 3-RX.com > Medical Encyclopedia > Medical Symptoms > Ataxia


Alternate Names : Incoordination, Dyssynergia, Ataxy, Clumsiness

Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors | Symptoms & Signs | Diagnosis & Tests | Prevention & Expectations | Treatment & Monitoring

Ataxia describes a lack of ability to move the muscles in a coordinated fashion. People with ataxia have irregular or awkward movements.

What is going on in the body?

Though most commonly used to describe the way a person walks, this condition can affect any of the muscles in the body. Problems with coordination can be due to many different types of problems, ranging from drinking alcohol to having a stroke. Ataxia may cause problems with everyday activities, such as tying a shoelace or driving a car.

What are the causes and risks of the condition?

There are many possible causes of this condition. Examples include:

  • damage to the brain from head injury, stroke, or multiple sclerosis
  • infection in the brain, such as meningitis, syphilis, AIDS, or Lyme disease
  • effects of a drug or toxin, such as alcohol, barbiturates, seizure medications or "sniffing glue"
  • poisoning
  • brain tumors or other cancers
  • vitamin deficiencies, such as lack of thiamine or vitamin B12
  • hormone abnormalities, such as hypothyroidism
  • inherited conditions that affect the brain, such as Friedreich's ataxia or ataxia-telangiectasia
  • bleeding into or around the brain from injury or trauma
  • nerve damage, which often affects walking and may occur with diabetes, lead poisoning, or certain cancer chemotherapy medications
  • old age, which also commonly affects walking. Decreased vision and strength in the elderly also affect walking.
  • hydrocephalus, which is increased fluid on the inside of the brain
  • movement disorders such as Parkinson's disease or Huntington chorea
  • balance problems due to irritation or damage to the middle ear, which aids in balance. Balance problems may occur with infections of the middle ear, such as Meniere's disease.
  • Other causes are also possible. Sometimes, a cause cannot be found.


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    Ataxia: Symptoms & Signs

    Author: Adam Brochert, MD
    Reviewer: Gail Hendrickson, RN, BS
    Date Reviewed: 08/20/01

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