What is Ataxia?
Ataxia is in loose terms a progressively degenerative neurological disorder that affects one's motor skills and muscle coordination. Simply put, the signals from your brain that tell your body what to do can't get to their destination.
The result is complete lack of balance, stiffening joints, muscle atrophy, dizziness, and overall lack of coordination.
The consequences are canes, walkers, and eventually wheelchairs. Many get blurred or double vision. The ability to write vanishes. Speech slowly deteriorates. Daily functions become harder, if not impossible. Constantly falling, severe fatigue, and speech and vision problems make life rough for some, and a constant battle for others.
An analogy that most people can relate to is think of a computer as your body. Everything works just fine except a defective processor (Intel or Athlon). Think of that processor as your cerebellum (the part of your brain that converts thought into action). It causes the body (computer) to constantly malfunction, putting incredible strain on other parts to compensate.
Where does it come from?
In many cases it is hereditary, and can be dominant or recessive. Depending on the type, it can be passed on by one parent, or both parents have the gene. It is like Russian roulette.
There are cases , however, where it seems to come from nowhere, and referred to as "sporadic", which means unknown cause. It could be a result of head trauma, stroke, alcohol or drug abuse, or even a vitamin deficiency.
There are over 60 genes that are responsible for the hereditary types. It is caused by a defect in DNA, which causes the cerebellum to deteriorate. The cerebellum is what controls motor functions and coordination.
As you can imagine, life is challenging not only for the patient, but family, friends, and eventually caregivers. The effects of ataxia reach far beyond the individual.
How does it affect a person?
It varies from person to person, and type to type. Some folks get it in later life, and deteriorate quickly. Some get hit hard at a young age. Others experience symptoms as a young adult, and continue to progress slowly.
There is no cure at this time. Some people feel they experience relief of some symptoms with various medications. Others rely on good diet, exercise to one's capability, vitamin supplements, and staying as active as possible.
Typical symptoms are as follows;
Yes, it's like a permanent drunk!