Ataxia is more of a symptom rather than a disease. Ataxia in Greek means "out of order" or "loss of balance". Ataxia is a common neurological symptom which makes patient feels insecure due loss of control while doing day-to-day activities.
Ataxia is lack of muscle coordination due to the small brain's (cerebellum) failure to regulate the body's posture, regulate its strength and direct the limb movements, thus resulting into wobbliness or clumsiness.
Ataxia may affect the fingers and hands, the extremities, the entire body, speech or even the eye movements.
A person with a long-standing ataxia may have damaged a part of the brain (cerebellum) that controls muscle coordination.
Hereditary ataxia is rare. In case of Hereditary ataxia, more than one family member may suffer with the same disease of ataxia.
Acute ataxia can be a relatively common complication of conditions such as a stroke, encephalitis (infection of the brain), or multiple sclerosis.
Men and women both are equally affected.
Types of Ataxia
There are three major types of ataxia, which also includes causes based on the area of brain, spine or ears affected.
- Cerebellar ataxia: There is an affection of the cerebellum, where, depending on the exact area affected, one experiences different symptoms of imbalance.
- Sensory Ataxia: There is a loss of perception about body parts, due to affection of the dorsal column of spinal cord.
- Vestibular Ataxia: This results from an impairment of inner ear, which forms what is called as vestibular system, responsible for maintaing balance. Vertigo is a prominent symptom in case of vestibular ataxia.
Ataxia can be broadly classified in two types:
- Hereditary ataxia: Here, the symptoms develop slowly, over many years and are caused by underlying problems with the genes.
- Acute Ataxia:The symptoms develop suddenly, due to a trauma, injury, or a health condition such as a stroke.
Causes of Balance Loss:
Ataxia can be caused by any of the following reasons:
- Genetic fault inherited from either of the parents or both.
- Vitamin B12 deficiency.
- Thyroid hormone deficiency (Hypothyroid or under active thyroid) This can be checked by a simple blood test of T4, T4, TSH.
- Brain surgery
- Gluten allergy
- Brain tumor
- Alcohol abuse
- After effect of radiation overdose
- Drug abuse: Adverse effects of Cannabis, alcohol, anti-epileptic medicines, some tranquilizers (benzodiazepines)
- Infections, like chicken pox (they usually disappear after infection is cured)
- Head injury
- Exposure to toxic chemicals
- Multiple sclerosis, cerebral palsy, and other neurological conditions
- Malformation of the cerebellum while the baby is still a foetus
Loss of Balance (Ataxia) Symptoms:
Ataxia can cause a wide range of symptoms suggesting loss of balance, such as:
- Loss of balance while getting up, walking
- Sense of giddiness or vertigo
- Difficulty in walking
- Difficulty in speaking
- Difficulty in swallowing (dysphagia)
- Difficulty in performing tasks that require a high degree of physical control, such as writing, eating etc.
Diagnosis of Ataxia:
In some of the cases, the cause remains unknown. MRI or a CT scan is advised to rule out any brain damage. Blood tests - some types of ataxia are an effect due to the make up of blood. Urine tests - urinalysis may suggest specific systemic abnormalities that are linked to some forms of ataxia. 24-hour urine is advised if wilson's disease is suspected. Genetic tests are conducted to determine whether the patient has inherited the symptom of ataxia (Hereditary Ataxia).
Treatment for Ataxia:
- Treatment for acute ataxia will depend on the underlying cause. For example, ataxia that is caused by an infection will often resolve once the infection has be treated.
- Medication - Some patients with ataxia telangiectasia are prescribed gamma-globulin injections.
- Auxillary modes of treatment are :
- Occupational therapy
- Speech therapy
- Orthopedic care
- Supplements and Nutrition
Homeopathic Treatment for Ataxia
Homeopathic treatment has been found to be effective in treating various forms of ataxia. Depending on the underlying cause and nature of impairment, one can decide the prognosis with homeopathy. All in all, homeopathy can offer significant results in most cases of ataxia where there are reversible or functional changes. In the cases of chronic ataxia such as hereditary ataxia, homeopathy can work on controlling the further damage and deterioration. In such cases, homeopathy could give partial and symptomatic relief. It cannot be said that homeopathy can cure or reverse chronic (long standing) ataxia. It must be noted that even a good control that homeopathy offers, is considered significant if achieved.
Homeopathic medicines help improves muscle coordination, dysphagia and uncontrollable eye movements. Some of the commonly indicated medicines, based on the cause of ataxia, can be listed here: Agaricus, Gelsemium, Conium, Alumina, Belladona, Causticum, Pulsatilla, etc.