Loss of Coordination

Head | Otorhinolaryngology | Loss of Coordination (Symptom)


Ataxia is a neurological sign characterized by a lack of voluntary coordination of muscle movements involved in walking. The term dystaxia is also known as a synonym. Ataxia is a non-specific symptom that involves dysfunction of the parts of the nervous system that coordinate movement, such as the cerebellum.


These neurological dysfunctions have different causes. Possible causes include injury to the brain or spinal cord. In the case of adults, ataxia may be caused by alcohol intoxication, drugs use, a stroke or a brain tumor affecting the cerebellum or the brainstem, a disease of the balance organ in the ear, or multiple sclerosis or other types of nerve degeneration. In the case of children, causes include acute infection, brain tumors, and the inherited condition Friedreich’s ataxia. Ataxia can also be caused by vitamin B12 deficiency, acute radiation poisoning and some diseases like Arnold-Chiari malformation or Wilson's disease.

Symptoms of ataxia depend on the site of damage, although a lurching, unsteady gait is common to most forms. In addition, damage to certain parts of the brain may cause slurred speech.

Diagnosis and Treatment

CT scanning or MRI may be used to determine the cause of ataxia. The treatment of ataxia and its effectiveness depend on the underlying cause. Treatment may limit or reduce the effects of ataxia, but it is unlikely to eliminate them entirely. Recovery tends to be better for individuals with a single focal injury such as stroke or a benign tumor, compared to those who have a neurological degenerative condition.


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