When you lose control of your body’s movements and coordination, it may be because of an underlying condition called ataxia.
As a neurology specialist, Christopher Duma, MD, FACS, understands how debilitating ataxia symptoms can be. Dr. Duma diagnoses and treats ataxia and other types of movement disorders using the latest advancements in medications and therapeutic techniques.
Ataxia is a degenerative disease that affects your nervous system and the cerebellum, the part of your brain that coordinates your movements. Ataxia can also develop if there’s damage to your spinal cord.
There isn’t always an explainable underlying cause for the damage that leads to ataxia (idiopathic ataxia). However, many people develop ataxia because of a spinal injury, an illness (acquired ataxia), or because of their genetics (hereditary ataxia).
Some of the more common triggers of ataxia include:
- Brain tumor
- Heart attack
- Head injuries
- Viral infections
- Multiple sclerosis
- Thyroid dysfunction
You can develop ataxia-related symptoms at any time in life, including childhood. These symptoms can be severe enough to become debilitating and affect your ability to stay physically active.
In some, ataxia symptoms can result in premature death. This complication is more common in people with hereditary ataxia and depends on the severity of symptoms and overall health.
The varying symptoms of ataxia
Ataxia can cause a wide range of symptoms that vary from person-to-person. Symptoms may start out mild, but can worsen over time.
Common symptoms of ataxia include:
- Slurred speech
- Lack of coordination
- Loss of fine motor skills
- Abnormal eye movements
- Difficulty eating or swallowing
People with ataxia often develop an abnormal gait. When they walk, they tend to veer off into different directions and are unable to walk in a straight line. This type of gait can give the appearance of being drunk or under the influence of drugs.
In some cases, the progression of symptoms occurs over years. However, ataxia symptoms can also progressively worsen quickly. Many with advanced ataxia may need a walker or wheelchair to stay mobile.
Customized treatment plans for ataxia
As an ataxia specialist, Dr. Duma offers customized treatment plans that focus on managing your symptoms and improving your quality of life.
In many cases, medications are part of an ataxia treatment plan. Dr. Duma uses a wide range of available medications to manage tremors and abnormal eye movements.
You may need speech therapy to address slurred speech or occupational therapy to improve your coordination and restore your fine motor skills. Physical therapy may also be beneficial for strengthening your muscles and relieving any discomfort you feel.
Benefits of early diagnosis
The earlier you seek treatment for ataxia, the better prepared you’ll be to manage your symptoms.
When you notice any changes to your coordination, your balance, or overall muscle control, you can schedule a diagnostic evaluation with Dr. Duma. He offers in-office neurological exams and may refer you for genetic and other diagnostic testing to better understand your condition.
Call the office of Christopher Duma, MD, FACS, today to schedule an ataxia evaluation or schedule a consultation through the online booking system.