Causes of Ataxia

Ataxia may be caused by a particular type of ataxia, and the causes may differ by type. The particular types of ataxia include:

Brain disorder causes of ataxia include:

Nerve and CNS Disorders: Causes related to the nerves include:

Balance Disorders: The various disorders of ataxia, usually with vertigo, include:

Circulatory causes include:

Other causes of ataxia include:

See also causes of similar symptoms:

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Back to: « Ataxia

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Most disorders that result in ataxia cause cells in the part of the brain called the cerebellum to degenerate, or atrophy. Sometimes the spine is also affected. The phrases cerebellar degeneration and spinocerebellar degeneration are used to describe changes that have taken place in a personís nervous system; neither term constitutes a specific diagnosis. Cerebellar and spinocerebellar degeneration have many different causes. The age of onset of the resulting ataxia varies depending on the underlying cause of the degeneration.

Many ataxias are hereditary and are classified by chromosomal location and pattern of inheritance: autosomal dominant, in which the affected person inherits a normal gene from one parent and a faulty gene from the other parent; and autosomal recessive, in which both parents pass on a copy of the faulty gene.

Among the more common inherited ataxias are Friedreichís ataxia and Machado-Joseph disease. Sporadic ataxias can also occur in families with no prior history.

Ataxia can also be acquired. Conditions that can cause acquired ataxia include stroke, multiple sclerosis, tumors, alcoholism, peripheral neuropathy, metabolic disorders, and vitamin deficiencies.

Source: NINDS (NIH)1

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acquired ataxia - where symptoms develop as the result of trauma, a stroke, multiple sclerosis (MS), a brain tumour, nutritional deficiencies, or other problems that damage the brain or nervous system

Source: NHS Choices UK2

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What causes ataxia?

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

This damage can be part of an underlying condition such as MS, or can be caused by a head injury, 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.

Read more about the causes of ataxia.

Source: NHS Choices UK3

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Ataxia is usually caused by damage to a part of the brain known as the cerebellum, but it can also be caused by damage to the spinal cord or other nerves.

The spinal cord is a long bundle of nerves that runs down the spine and connects the brain to all other parts of the body.

The cerebellum is located at the base of the brain and is responsible for controlling:

  • walking and sitting balance
  • limb co-ordination
  • eye movements
  • speech

Damage can occur as a result of injury or illness (acquired ataxia) or because the cerebellum or spinal cord degenerates because of an inherited faulty gene (hereditary ataxia).

Sometimes there's no clear reason why the cerebellum and spinal cord become damaged. This is the case for people with idiopathic late-onset cerebellar ataxia (ILOA).

Source: NHS Choices UK4

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Acquired ataxia

Acquired ataxia can have a wide range of potential causes, including:

Source: NHS Choices UK5

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Multiple sclerosis: MS can make walking and moving around difficult, particularly if you also have muscle weakness and spasticity (see above). You may experience:

Source: NHS Choices UK6

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Multiple system atrophy: In multiple system atrophy, a part of the brain called the cerebellum is damaged. This can make the person clumsy and unsteady when walking, and can also cause slurred speech. These problems are collectively known as cerebellar ataxia.

Source: NHS Choices UK7

Causes of Ataxia

Causes of the condition may include:8 Causes of Ataxia:

Causes List for Ataxia

Some of the possible causes of Ataxia or similar disorders may include:9

... Full Causes List for Ataxia »

Genetics of Ataxia

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 is Friedreich's ataxia ...Source: NHS Choices UK10 ...

... More on Genetics »

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  1. Source: NINDS (NIH): disorders/ ataxia/ ataxia.htm
  2. Source: NHS Choices UK: conditions/ Ataxia/ 
  3. ibid.
  4. Source: NHS Choices UK: conditions/ ataxia/ causes/ 
  5. ibid.
  6. Source: NHS Choices UK: conditions/ multiple-sclerosis/ symptoms/ 
  7. Source: NHS Choices UK: conditions/ multiple-system-atrophy/ 
  8. Source: Human Phenotype Ontology
  9. Source: Algorithmically Generated List
  10. Source: NHS Choices UK: conditions/ Ataxia/ 

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Note: This site is for informational purposes only and is not medical advice. See your doctor or other qualified medical professional for all your medical needs.