Ataxia is a health condition that affects muscle coordination. There aren’t any treatments yet to fully get rid of Ataxia but there are therapies that you can have to ease its symptoms. Here are some things you should know to treat ataxia.
The cerebellum is the part of your brain that is responsible for muscle coordination. An injury to this part may lead to ataxia. This condition may start during childhood.
- Head trauma that causes injury to the brain or spinal column may lead to acute cerebellar ataxia.
- Stroke is a condition where blood supply to the brain is blocked for a certain period of time. When this happens, brain cells die because of lack of oxygen and nutrients.
- Ataxia can be a symptom of an underlying disease like Cerebral Palsy. It can also be a symptom of Multiple Sclerosis.
- Tumor in the brain, whether cancerous or not, may affect the cerebellum and lead to lack of coordination and balance.
- Taking certain medications, like Phenobarbital and Benzodiazepines can result to Ataxia. When taking these type of medications, make sure that you follow the right dose. Taking any of these medicine for a long period may produce unpleasant and serious side effects.
- Genes. Autosomal dominant and autosomal recessive disorders are types of hereditary ataxia. If you have a family history of this condition, there are chances that you also might have this illness. Some patients develop ataxia, even when they don’t have any family history of it. Some says that there are instances where genes mutate by itself and this mutation can lead to ataxia.An example of an autosomal dominant disorder is episodic ataxia. Friedrich’s ataxia is a type of an autosomal recessive disorder.
The symptoms you have depend on the type of ataxia you have. In general, you’ll notice the following things.
- Loss of coordination in hands, arms and legs.
- Difficulty in walking and walking with wide base support. Having a wide base when walking occurs because ataxia is also associated with balance problems.
- Slow eye movement and degeneration of the eyes.
- Slurred speech and difficulty swallowing or dysphagia.
- One of the popular tests used for the diagnosis of Ataxia is the finger-to-nose test. This is a test of your voluntary motor function. You’ll be asked to touch the tip of your nose with your index finger while one of your arms is extended to one side.
- Other tests that check your coordination are rhythmic hand slapping, heel-shin test and toe tapping.
If ataxia is a result of an underlying condition, treating the main cause would effectively get rid of ataxia.
Ataxia is a debilitating illness that affects a person way of living. With proper therapies and an effective support group, you’ll learn how to deal with the symptoms and accept your condition.
- Physical therapy can help improve muscle tone and strength. It can also help with your mobility problems. By strengthening your arms and legs, you’ll be able to improve your gait and arm movements.
- Occupational Therapy teaches you ways to perform your daily activities in the most effective way. This therapy concentrates more on self-care and patient independence.
- Speech therapy will help manage slurred speech. This therapy will also teach you how to communicate effectively
- Devices. Have a cane or walker to help you with mobility, even if you’re under physical therapy. If you have speech problem and is having difficulty swallowing, you may also want to get modified utensils. Your jaw muscles may also be affected so it’s important for you to get the appropriate utensils you can use for eating.
- Fatigue can be treated by taking enough rest and stretching exercises. Low impact exercise routine like walking may help increase your energy level. You can also take Modafinil (Provigil). Don’t forget to consult your doctor when taking any kind of medication.
- Anxiety and depression. Ataxic patients are at risk of anxiety, especially they don’t know how to deal with their condition. Counseling and joining support groups will help you understand your condition and give you ideas on how other people with ataxia cope with their problems. If anxiety or depression affects your relationships or daily living, you may need to take anti-anxiety medications. (Tips on how to treat depression)
- For muscle spasticity, you can take Baclofen or Tizanidine.
- Tremors can be treated with beta blockers.
- Caution: These medications have different side effects. Be sure to consult your doctor if you want to take medicines to ease your symptoms. Your health care provider may suggest alternative methods of relieving your symptoms.
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