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Understanding Ataxia

March 24, 2019

Ataxia is a group of diseases of the nervous system and affect the ability of a person to walk, talk, eat and perform other motor skills.

Ataxia can affect a person at any age suddenly or develop overtime in months or years.


The severity and signs of Ataxia may vary from person to person but there are some commonly observed indicators.

- Poor coordination of muscles.

- Unsteady walk and inability to maintain balance.

- Difficulty in fine motor skill related tasks such as eating, writing.

- Unclear or slurred speech

- Loss of control over eye movements

- Difficulty in swallowing

- Falling down often

- Constant pain, fatigue or dizziness

Due to deterioration of fine motor skills and limb movements, people affected by ataxia may rely on the use of wheelchairs, walkers, scooters for mobility.

Zoyeb Zia has ataxia and shared his thoughts with NewzHook.

The biggest hurdle due to ataxia is the dependence on others for everyday tasks. Not being able to move from one location to other without support and needing constant care adds to mental stress. Lack of infrastructure such as accessible roads and buildings hampers the ability to move around conveniently in a wheelchair. Zoyeb Zia, Assistant Professor Zoology

Ataxia is a group of diseases and these are some common forms:

- Ataxia Telangiectasia

- Episodic Ataxia

- Friedreich's Ataxia

- Multiple System Atrophy

- Spinocerebellar Ataxia

- Sporadic Ataxia

Causes & Diagnoses

Ataxia is a degenerative disease and affects the muscle movement controlling part of the brain- The cerebellum.

Ataxia can be caused due to reasons such as defective genes, alcohol abuse, medications, stroke, tumor, cerebral palsy, brain degeneration, multiple sclerosis.

Iftikhar Zia is Zoyeb's father and says that rare diseases not only effect a person's life but that of everyone around them. "We have spent many years in getting a proper diagnoses and searched for treatment options. Parents worry constantly about looking for a cause and cure and that supersedes everything else in life. "

Iftikhar Zia is now the regional coordinator of ORDI - Organization for Rare Diseases India, in Tamil Nadu. ORDI is an organization dedicated to provide the much needed awareness and support about rare diseases.

Doctors use a wide range of tests including physical exam and neurological exam to diagnose Ataxia. Lumbar puncture, CT scan or MRI and genetic testing are some other tests that may be needed.


There is no specific treatment available to cure ataxia at present. "Ataxia" without order or incoordination" is a rare degenerative disorder affecting control of movements. Says Nithya Narasimhan whose family member had ataxia.

Doctors may recommend certain medications and life style changes to manage the symptoms. Therapies can also be used to learn fine motor skills to be able to perform everyday tasks independently.

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