Ataxia is usually caused by damageto apart of the brain known as the cerebellum, but it can also be caused by damage to the spinal cord or other nerves.
The spinal cord is a long bundle of nerves that runs down the spine and connectsthe brain to all other parts of the body.
The cerebellum is located at the base of the brain and is responsible for controlling:
Damage can occur as a result of injury or illness (acquired ataxia) or because the cerebellum or spinal corddegenerates because ofan inherited faulty gene (hereditary ataxia).
Sometimes there's no clear reason why the cerebellum and spinal cord become damaged. This is the case for people withidiopathic late-onset cerebellar ataxia (ILOA).
Acquired ataxia can have a wide range of potential causes, including:
Hereditary ataxia is caused by afaulty gene. Genes are units of DNA that determine a particular characteristic, such as sex oreye colour. A baby receives two copies of every gene one from their mother and one from theirfather.
Ataxiacan be inherited in two possible ways:
These are described in more detail below.
When ataxia isautosomal recessive,it means the affected person has inheritedthe mutated gene from both their mother and their father.
If they only received one mutated gene from either parent, the other normal gene will cancel out the effects of thefaulty geneandthey will be a carrier of the condition. This means they don't have the condition themselves, but could pass it on to their children if their partner is also a carrier of the faulty gene.
It's estimated around1 in every 85 people are carriers of the mutated gene that causes Friedreich's ataxia, and around1 in every 100 people arecarriers ofthe mutated gene that causes ataxia-telangiectasia.
If two carriers of the mutated gene were tohave a baby, there would bea:
If you have autosomal recessive ataxia and your partner is a carrier, there is a oneintwo chance your baby will receive one normal gene and one mutated gene and will be a carrier, and a oneintwo chance your baby will receive a pair of mutated genes and develop ataxia.
If you have autosomal recessive ataxia and your partner doesn't and they aren't a carrier, there's no risk of any of your children developing ataxia. This is because your mutated gene will be cancelled out by your partner's normal gene. Your children will be carriers, however.
When ataxia is autosomal dominant, you can develop the conditionif you receive a singlefaulty gene, either from your mother or father. This is because the mutation is strong enough to override the other normal gene.
If you have autosomal dominant ataxia, any children you have will have aone intwo chance of developing ataxia.
Ataxia is the term for a group of disorders that affect co-ordination, balance and speech. Find out about the main types, what causes them, and how they're treated.
Read about some of the main types of ataxia, including when they develop and what the outlook is.
Read about the main causes of ataxia, including how some types are passed on to a child by their parents.