Early symptoms of ataxia

The early symptoms of ataxia can appear between the ages of 5 and 15 – for example in the case of Friedrich’s ataxia. The implication is that the symptoms of this condition vary depending on the type. However, they are characterized by a loss of muscle control while walking, picking up objects, buttoning a shirt, writing, and other voluntary movements; gait and posture abnormalities; fine motor in-coordination; and increased fatigue.





·         Balance and coordination problems.

·         Wobbliness.

·         Clumsiness.

·         Frequent falls.

·         Slurred, slow, and unclear speech.

·         Leg weakness.

·         Difficulty swallowing.

·         Scoliosis.

·         Total or partial vision or hearing loss.

·         Diabetes.

·         Chest pain.

·         Shortness of breath.

·         Irregular heartbeat.

·         Loss of feeling in hands and feet.


·         Difficulty walking.

·         Clusters of red blood vessels resembling spiders in the corner of the eyes and cheeks.

·         Slow eye movements.

·         Weakened immune system.

·         Increased risk of cancer.


·         Stiff muscles.

·         Cramps.

·         Memory loss.

·         Incontinence.


·         Muscle spasms.

·         Involuntary eye movements.

·         Vertigo.

·         Migraine.

·         Tinnitus.

Some of these symptoms overlap between types.

Friedrich’s is the most common type, in which case the early symptoms of ataxia set in before 25 years and often take a deadly toll by age 30. In people with this condition who live longer – into their 60s and beyond – the symptoms tend to worsen over time. Ataxia-telangiectasia is much rarer and affects mostly children, whom usually must use a wheelchair by the time they are 10. Conversely, spinocerebellar ataxia is an umbrella term for a group of inherited ataxias that mainly affect people aged 25 and up to 80. Finally, episodic ataxia – as its name implies – involves episodes of the condition triggered by stress, being startled, or by sudden movements in people who otherwise experience no symptoms the rest of the time.

People develop Friedrich’s ataxia when they inherit one defective copy of a defective FXN gene from their father and one from their mother. Other types are also hereditary. Additionally, this condition can be acquired through damage, degeneration, or loss of nerve cells in the cerebellum (the part of the brain that controls muscle coordination). Such damage can be brought on by:

·         Head trauma.

·         Stroke.

·         Transient ischemic attack.

·         Cerebral palsy.

·         Multiple sclerosis.

·         Chicken pox.

·         Paraneoplastic syndromes.

·         Tumors.

·         Toxic reactions.

·         Vitamin E or B12 deficiency.

However, the cause of ataxia can be idiopathic – that is, unknown. A doctor will perform physical and neurological exams in a patient exhibiting the early symptoms of ataxia in order to look for a treatable cause. Unfortunately, there is no cure for this disease, but treatment can relieve the symptoms and render the person as independent and functional as possible. When ataxia is the result of multiple sclerosis or cerebral palsy, the doctor may recommend home medical supplies such as canes, walkers, modified eating utensils, and communication aids. Treatment may also include physical, occupational, and speech therapy.

Related: Home medical equipment: Nitro Euro Style Rollator Walker