Last Updated on Jul 29, 2014

Symptoms and Signs of Ataxia

Symptoms of ataxia include lack of coordination, unstable gait, difficulty balancing, swaying, slurring of speech, involuntary eye movements, difficulty swallowing and tremors.

Symptoms of ataxia may appear suddenly or gradually. These include –

  • Lack of coordination during various activities – from eating to buttoning of shirt.
  • Difficulty in balancing and unstable gait. Patient with cerebellar ataxia may try to maintain balance by walking with legs wide apart. They initially experience difficulty in maintaining balance while turning. Patients with sensory ataxia often look at their feet while walking.
  • Swaying of the body from side to side.

Some people may progress to experience the following symptoms -

  • Slurring of speech due to lack of coordination of facial muscles.
  • Involuntary eye movement that affects vision.
  • Difficulty swallowing.
  • Tremors while moving limbs.

The features of some hereditary ataxias are mentioned below -

Spinocerebellar Ataxia

Spinocerebellar ataxia is an inherited ataxia that mainly involves the cerebellum and the spinal cord. Other associated parts of the brain may also be affected. There are many different types of Spinocerebellar ataxias, each having its specific features.

Friedreich’s Ataxia

Friedreich’s ataxia is an inherited ataxia that affects sensory components first. It usually appears around puberty. The patient’s initial symptoms often include imbalance, ataxia of the limbs and speech disturbance. It affects the heart and may lead to diabetes as well. Spinal and foot deformities are often seen in these patients.

Ataxia Telangiectasia

This is an inherited type of ataxia that affects the cerebellum. It occurs early in children. Beside the features of ataxia, the patient also shows small, dilated blood vessels on the eye, nose or ears. The patient may develop repeated infections due to reduced immunity. Death occurs due to respiratory failure, infections or cancer.

Episodic Ataxias

These are hereditary ataxias that are often triggered by physical or mental stress or excitement. There are at least 6 different types of episodic ataxias. Patients experience episodes of loss of coordination and balance. They may respond to drugs such as acetazolamide and anti-seizure medications.


  1. Harrison’s Principles of Internal Medicine 17th edition
  2. Brunberg JA. Ataxia. American Journal of Neuroradiology 2008; 29:1420-1422


kenny66 Thursday, July 19, 2018


Willowkitty Wednesday, August 6, 2014

I cannot walk a straight line. It was so bad Sunday that I went to the hospital to see if I had a stroke. No stroke, no MS, taking meds for heart attack back in December. Doctors don't know what is causing it. Very frustrated.

Imayavaramban Saturday, June 21, 2014

Last month, I got injured in my head due to road accident. I found some symptoms in me relevant to ataxia. What should i do next ?

Jimbo1789 Monday, December 3, 2012

I got ataxia from interferon shots. Collapsed one day, wound up in hospital for 2 weeks in a coma, had pneumonia, anemia requiring transfusion, dysphagia, dyskinesia and dysarthria, After 3 months of therapy speech is still affected and still cannot walk w/o qualified supervision. Are there any treatments available?

marnie65 Friday, July 20, 2012

For the last two months, I have had Bacteremia four times with E-Coli ESBL, and Proteus. I have been covered extensively with Gentamicin and Vancomycin. My Creatinine has been rising and is now 131. My GFR has been decreasing, which is now 38. As well, I have lost my sense of balance and I am experiencing a great deal of difficulty walking. Initially I thought this was due to severe anemia, HGB 88, with iron depletion. Now I wonder about ataxia from the aminoglycocides, and if this is the case, is it reversible?

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