Ataxia Treatment in Bergen County, NJ
Ataxia is the lack of muscle control or coordination of voluntary movements that results from damage to your brain's cerebellum or spinal cord. It can cause symptoms like frequent stumbling and slurred speech. There are many different types of ataxia. Some are hereditary, while others are caused by strokes, tumors, and certain medications.
The condition is progressive, meaning that symptoms worsen over a period or months or decades. Eventually, the nerve cells and muscle will degenerate. Symptoms of ataxia are managed with medication, physical therapy, and assistive devices. To find treatment in Bergen County, call (929) 244-4466 or contact Manhattan Integrative Medicine online.
What are the symptoms of ataxia?
Ataxia symptoms include:
- poor coordination
- unsteady walk
- frequent stumbling
- difficulty with fine motor tasks, such as eating or writing
- speech change like slurred speech or abnormal speech (dysarthria)
- difficulty swallowing
- involuntary back-and-forth eye movements (nystagmus)
Some specific types of ataxias have unique symptoms alongside poor coordination:
- spinocerebellar ataxias: symptoms and symptom onset differ between the more than 35 different mutations in this type, but can include difficulty processing, learning, and remembering information
- episodic ataxia (EA): dizziness, fatigue, and muscle weakness that last for periods of a few seconds to six hours; EA are often associated with muscle twitching, and symptoms are caused by stress or by being startled by sudden movement
Friedreich's ataxia: symptoms appear before age five and include:
- wasting muscles that cause hand, feet, and lower leg deformities
- hearing loss
- cardiomyopathy and heart failure
ataxia-telangiectasia: causes symptoms in 5-15-year-olds, such as:
- immune system breakdown (immunodeficiency disease)
- tiny red "spider" veins that appear in the corners of the eyes or on the ears and cheeks (telangiectasias)
- delayed motor skill development
- needing a wheelchair by teenage years
- recurrent sinus and respiratory infections
- high risk of developing cancer, particularly leukemia or lymphoma
- death before the age of 30
congenital cerebellar ataxia: symptoms begin at infancy and can include:
- mild to severe intellectual deficit
- difficulty performing quick and alternating movements (dysdiadochokinesia)
- misaligned eyes (strabismus)
What causes ataxia?
Causes of ataxia include:
- damage to the brain or spinal cord from accidents
- cerebral palsy
- autoimmune diseases like multiple sclerosis and celiac disease
- uncommon complications of viral infections like chickenpox
- a growth (tumor) in the brain
- side effects to certain medications like barbiturates
- alcohol abuse
- recreational drugs like marijuana
- vitamin E, vitamin B-12 or thiamine deficiency
- mercury poisoning
Some types of ataxia are known as hereditary ataxia. These are passed down through generations, either through a dominant gene from one parent or a recessive gene from both parents (autosomal dominant ataxias and autosomal recessive ataxias respectfully). These genes make abnormal proteins that hinder the function of nerve cells in the cerebellum and spinal cord, causing degeneration. Types of autosomal dominant ataxias include spinocerebellar ataxias and episodic ataxia (EA), while types of autosomal recessive ataxias include Friedreich's ataxia, ataxia-telangiectasia, and congenital cerebellar.
Some types of ataxia have no causes and are known as sporadic ataxia.
How is ataxia diagnosed?
To diagnose ataxia, you may undergo a:
physical exam and a neurological exam
- to check your memory, concentration, vision, hearing, coordination, and reflexes
- imaging studies like MRI scans to look for shrinkage of the cerebellum
- blood or urine tests to detect abnormal electrolytes, chemicals, and toxins
- lumbar puncture (spinal tap) to remove a sample of cerebrospinal fluid from your spine
- genetic testing to search for hereditary ataxic
How is ataxia treated?
While there is no specific treatment method for ataxia, ways to manage symptoms include:
wearing adapted devices: to compensate for the loss muscle control
- this may include hiking sticks, modified eating utensils, and communication aids
- physical therapy to strengthen your coordination and mobility
- speech therapy: to improve speech and swallowing
- occupational therapy: to help with daily tasks like self-feeding
- bone transplantation: shown to cause improvements in motor coordination and locomotor activity for Friedreich's ataxia patients1
- stem cell therapy: can delay motor function loss and regenerate some cerebral function2
- acupuncture: for post stroke therapy
Ataxia caused by medications or drugs can be resolved by ceasing use. Ataxia caused by a viral infection, it will likely resolve on its own.
Results of these treatments will vary from patient to patient depending on age, genetics, condition severity, as well as environmental and health factors.
Reserve your appointment now
There are many different types of ataxia, and many factors that can cause it. But there are many ways you can deal with the symptoms. If you are experiencing ataxia symptoms in Bergen County, call (929) 244-4466 or contact Manhattan Integrative Medicine online to find treatment today.
1. Kemp, Kevin C. et al. "Bone Marrow Transplantation Stimulates Neural Repair in Friedreich's Ataxia Mice." Annals of Neurology 83.4 (2018): 779–793. PMC. Web. 11 July 2018.
2. Chang Y-K, Chen M-H, Chiang Y-H, et al. Mesenchymal stem cell transplantation ameliorates motor function deterioration of spinocerebellar ataxia by rescuing cerebellar Purkinje cells. Journal of Biomedical Science. 2011;18(1):54. doi:10.1186/1423-0127-18-54.
Manhattan Integrative Medicine
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