Ataxia describes a lack of muscle control or coordination of voluntary movements, such as walking or picking up objects. A sign of an underlying condition, ataxia can affect various movements, creating difficulties with speech, eye movement and swallowing. Persistent ataxia usually results from damage to the part of your brain that controls muscle coordination (cerebellum). Many conditions can cause ataxia, including alcohol abuse, certain medications, stroke, tumour, cerebral palsy, brain degeneration and multiple sclerosis. Inherited defective genes also can cause the condition. Ataxia can develop over time or come on suddenly. A sign of a number of neurological disorders, ataxia can cause: poor coordination, unsteady walk and a tendency to stumble, difficulty with fine motor tasks, such as eating, writing or buttoning a shirt, change in speech, involuntary back-and-forth eye movements (nystagmus) and Difficulty swallowing.
Damage, degeneration or loss of nerve cells in the part of your brain that controls muscle coordination (cerebellum), results in ataxia. Your cerebellum comprises two ping pong-ball-sized portions of folded tissue situated at the base of your brain near your brainstem. The right side of your cerebellum controls coordination on the right side of your body; the left side of your cerebellum controls coordination on the left. Some types of ataxia and some conditions that cause ataxia are hereditary. If you have one of these conditions, you were born with a defect in a certain gene that makes abnormal proteins. The abnormal proteins hamper the function of nerve cells, primarily in your cerebellum and spinal cord, and cause them to degenerate. As the disease progresses, coordination problems worsen.
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