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Ataxia is a term that refers to a set of symptoms that are mainly characterized by the lack of coordination of movements of different parts of the body. This situation can have several causes, such as neurodegenerative problems, cerebral palsy, infections, hereditary factors, brain hemorrhages, malformations and can arise from excessive use of drugs or alcohol, for example.
Usually, the person with ataxia has difficulties in carrying out daily activities, such as picking up objects and buttoning clothes, and may have difficulties in swallowing, writing and slurred speech, however, the severity of symptoms depends on the type of ataxia and associated causes.
Chronic ataxia has no cure, but it can be controlled to increase the person's quality of life.Therefore, when symptoms are present, it is necessary to consult a neurologist to initiate the appropriate treatment, which consists of the use of medication, physiotherapy and occupational therapy.
Types of ataxia
Ataxia is associated with the onset of several symptoms that may differ depending on the type. The types of ataxia are:
- Cerebellar ataxia: occurs because of damage to the cerebellum, which can be caused by brain hemorrhage, tumor, infection, or accidents;
- FriedReich's ataxia: is the most common type, being hereditary, appearing mainly in adolescence and causing deformities in the feet and curvatures in the spine;
- Spinocerebellar ataxia: most often, this type appears in adulthood and causes muscle stiffness, memory loss, urinary incontinence, and progressive vision loss;
- Ataxia telangiectasia: is also a hereditary type, but it is rare, starting in childhood and developing over time. Typically, a person with this type of ataxia has a weakened immune system;
- Sensory or sensory ataxia: caused by damage to the sensory nerves that causes the person not to feel where their legs are in relation to the body.
There is also a type of ataxia called idiopathic, which is characterized when the causes are not known and usually occurs in elderly people.
Ataxia can appear in any person without a defined cause, however, in most cases, it appears due to genetic factors, that is, it manifests itself due to defective genes, transmitted from parents to children, and can be worse than one generation to another.
There are some types of ataxia that are caused by certain conditions, such as brain surgery, head tumor or injury, excessive drug or alcohol use, exposure to toxic substances, serious infections, stroke and other neurodegenerative problems, such as cerebral palsy or multiple sclerosis, which is an autoimmune disease in which defense cells attack the nervous system.Understand what multiple sclerosis is, main symptoms and treatment.
Symptoms of ataxia vary according to the type and severity of the disease or injury to the nervous system, but in most cases they can arise:
- Lack of coordination in body movements;
- Loss of balance, and frequent falls may occur;
- Difficulty picking up objects and buttoning clothes;
- Irregular eye movements;
- Difficulty swallowing;
- Difficulty writing;
- Excessive tremors;
- Slurred or slurred speech.
In cases of chronic ataxia, which has no cure, signs such as recurrent infections, spinal problems and heart disease due to neurological degeneration may appear. In addition, ataxia and associated symptoms can appear at any age, as there are cases in which a person is born with this change.
How to confirm the diagnosis
When presenting with ataxia and associated symptoms, it is important to consult a neurologist who will analyze the he alth history of the person and the whole family, to verify the possibility of this person having genetic and hereditary alterations. The doctor may also recommend performing neurological tests to identify problems with body movements, vision or speech.
In addition, other exams may be recommended, such as magnetic resonance imaging and computed tomography, which provide detailed images of the brain and through these exams the doctor can verify the presence of lesions and brain tumors. Also, the neurologist may ask the person to perform blood tests and even lumbar puncture, to collect a sample of the fluid that circulates in the nervous system to be analyzed in the laboratory. Check out what lumbar puncture is and what are the side effects.
How the treatment is done
Treatment for ataxia depends on the type and severity of the disease, it is indicated by a neurologist who can advise the use of antispasmodic and relaxing drugs, such as baclofen and tizanidine, or even botox injections to relieve the contraction of muscles caused by brain changes caused by ataxia.
For the treatment of ataxia it is also important that the person does physical therapy exercises to reduce uncoordinated body movements and to prevent muscle weakness or muscle stiffness, the number of sessions depending on the degree of the disease and is recommended by the physical therapist.
In addition, it is recommended that the person with ataxia undergo occupational therapy, as this activity can assist in the development of personal independence, helping the person to adapt to the gradual loss of movement, through the acquisition of new skills to perform daily activities.