Ataxia isa term for a group ofdisorders that affect co-ordination, balance and speech.

Anypart of the body can be affected, but people with ataxia oftenhave difficulties with:

  • balance and walking
  • speaking
  • swallowing
  • tasks that require a high degree of control, such as writing and eating
  • vision

The exact symptoms and their severity vary depending on the type of ataxia a person has.

Types of ataxia

There are many different types of ataxia, which canbe divided into three broad categories:

  • acquired ataxia where symptoms develop asthe result of trauma, a Heat exhaustion and heatstroke , multiple sclerosis (MS) , a brain tumour , nutritional deficiencies, or other problems that damage thebrain or nervous system
  • hereditary ataxia where symptoms develop slowly over many years and are caused by faulty genes that a person inherits from their parents;the most common type isFriedreich's ataxia
  • idiopathic late-onset cerebellar ataxia (ILOCA) where the brain is progressively damaged over time for reasons that are unclear

What causes ataxia?

Ataxiausually results from damage to a part of the brain called the cerebellum, but it can also be caused by damage to other parts ofthe nervous system.

This damage can be part of an underlyingcondition such asMS, or can be caused bya headinjury , lack of oxygen to the brain,or long-term, excessive alcohol consumption.

Hereditary ataxia is caused by a faulty gene passed on by family members, who may or may not be affected.

Some types may remain relatively stable or even improve with time, but most will get progressively worse over many years.

Life expectancy is generally shorter than normal for people with hereditary ataxia, although some people can live well into their 50s, 60s or beyond. In more severe cases, the condition can be fatal in childhood or early adulthood.

For acquired ataxia, the outlook depends on the underlying cause. Some cases may improveor stay the same, whileother casesmayget gradually worse over time and reduce life expectancy.

Information about you

If you have ataxia, your clinical team will pass information about you on to the National Congenital Anomaly and Rare Diseases Registration Service (NCARDRS).

This helps scientists look for better ways to prevent and treat this condition. You can opt out of the register at any time.

Find out more about the register .

Content supplied by the NHS Website

Medically Reviewed by a doctor on 30 Nov 2016