What is Ataxia?

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taxia is a condition characterized by impaired coordination. The impairment interferes with a person’s voluntary movements, including walking and picking things up. It can affect much of the body, including the arms, legs, hands, fingers, eye movement, and ability to speak.

Most people with ataxia have a lack of balance and coordination affecting many parts of the body. It may be difficult for them to stand and walk. This often leads to a noticeable change in the gait, or pattern of walking, that can cause musculoskeletal pain over time. Currently there is no cure for Ataxia, but clinical trials are ongoing.

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What Causes Ataxia?

Ataxia can have many different sources. It usually arises from neurological damage caused by a chronic health condition. Some people inherit ataxia from their parents. These cases are known as hereditary ataxia. However, most people develop ataxia later in life, called sporadic ataxia.

Ataxia can usually be traced back to damage to specific cells in the brain. Specifically, cells in the cerebellum, at the back of the head, get smaller or die. These cells are responsible for helping to coordinate voluntary movement and maintain equilibrium while the body is in motion.

Some conditions associated with sporadic ataxia include stroke, multiple sclerosis, and tumors. Peripheral neuropathy – nerve damage – some metabolic disorders, and vitamin deficiencies may also be involved. For most people, the biggest lifestyle risk factor is long-term alcoholism.

How is Ataxia Diagnosed?

Genetic testing can determine if someone has hereditary ataxia. When ataxia is inherited on a set of recessive genes, it has a tendency to produce symptoms in childhood. Genetic testing should always be part of the treatment process for children who may be suffering ataxia.

Diagnosis of sporadic ataxia may require more tools and testing. A complete lab workup of the patient’s blood and urine should be done. An MRI scan, which uses radiofrequency energy to produce images of the body’s soft tissues, can evaluate damage to the brain.

During the diagnostic process, the medical team also rules out conditions that can contribute to ataxia: Head trauma, stroke, infection, tumors, drug exposure, and others can be detected during this time. This helps the doctor decide on the most effective course of treatment.

How is Ataxia Treated or Cured?

There is no cure for hereditary ataxia. Those who develop it are likely to have symptoms for life. However, there is cutting-edge research taking place around the world with several on-going clinical trials sponsored by pharmaceutical companies with many more being planned for the near future.

Sporadic ataxia caused by stroke, vitamin deficiency, or drug exposure are very responsive to treatment with medication. Likewise, ataxia caused by alcoholism can be controlled, and the sufferer protected against additional damage, by discontinuing alcohol use.

When ataxia is related to other conditions, like stroke, then an appropriate course of long-term care including physical therapy can help patients manage ongoing symptoms and maximize their independence. Care must be customized to the individual’s needs.

There is no cure for ataxia, but sufferers can live a full life no matter when they are diagnosed.

Ataxia Clinical Trials

The following list of clinical trials are the most up to date Ataxia clinical trials provided by clinicaltrials.gov.

ClinicalTrials.gov: Recruiting Studies | Spinocerebellar Ataxias | Last update posted in the last 300 days Studies found on ClinicalTrials.gov by a search of: Recruiting Studies | Spinocerebellar Ataxias | Last update posted in the last 300 days

  • Genetic Mechanism of Conserved Ancestral Haplotype in SCA10
    on July 31, 2020 at 4:00 pm

    Condition:   Spinocerebellar Ataxia Type 10Intervention:   Other: Non-interventional studySponsors:   The Methodist Hospital System;   Hospital de Clinicas de Porto AlegreRecruiting

  • Efficacy Of Oral Trehalose In Spinocerebellar Ataxia 3
    on May 22, 2020 at 4:00 pm

    Condition:   Spinocerebellar Ataxia Type 3Interventions:   Dietary Supplement: Trehalose;   Dietary Supplement: MaltoseSponsors:   National University of Malaysia;   Radboud UniversityRecruiting

  • Integrated Functional Evaluation of the Cerebellum
    on February 28, 2020 at 5:00 pm

    Conditions:   Spinocerebellar Ataxia Type 2;   Spinocerebellar Ataxia Type 7Interventions:   Procedure: Lumbar puncture;   Other: Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)Sponsors:   Institut National de la Santé Et de la Recherche Médicale, France;   Biogen;   Ionis Pharmaceuticals, Inc.Recruiting

  • Instrumented Data Exchange for Ataxia Study
    on February 13, 2020 at 5:00 pm

    Conditions:   Spinocerebellar Ataxia Type 1;   Spinocerebellar Ataxia Type 2;   Spinocerebellar Ataxia Type 3;   Spinocerebellar Ataxia Type 6;   Friedreich AtaxiaIntervention:   Sponsors:   University of Chicago;   Pfizer;   Biogen;   APDM Wearable TechnologiesRecruiting

  • Using Wearable and Mobile Data to Diagnose and Monitor Movement Disorders
    on January 18, 2020 at 5:00 pm

    Conditions:   Essential Tremor;   Parkinson Disease;   Huntington Disease;   Dystonia, Primary;   Spinocerebellar Ataxias;   Movement DisordersIntervention:   Sponsor:   Rutgers, The State University of New JerseyRecruiting

  • NAD+ and Exercise in FA
    on December 10, 2019 at 5:00 pm

    Condition:   Friedreich Ataxia 1Interventions:   Dietary Supplement: Nicotinamide Riboside;   Dietary Supplement: Placebo;   Other: Exercise InterventionSponsors:   Children's Hospital of Philadelphia;   National Institutes of Health (NIH)Recruiting

  • Single Ascending Dose Study of CTI-1601 Versus Placebo in Subjects With Friedreich's Ataxia
    on November 26, 2019 at 5:00 pm

    Condition:   Friedreich AtaxiaInterventions:   Biological: CTI-1601;   Biological: PlaceboSponsor:   Larimar Therapeutics, Inc.Recruiting

  • Cerebello-Spinal tDCS as Rehabilitative Intervention in Neurodegenerative Ataxia
    on November 6, 2019 at 5:00 pm

    Conditions:   Ataxia;   Spinocerebellar Ataxias;   Spinocerebellar Ataxia Type 1;   Spinocerebellar Ataxia Type 2;   Spinocerebellar Ataxia 3;   Multiple System Atrophy;   Ataxia With Oculomotor Apraxia;   CANVASInterventions:   Device: Anodal cerebellar and cathodal spinal tDCS;   Device: Sham cerebellar and sham spinal tDCSSponsor:   Azienda Socio Sanitaria Territoriale degli Spedali Civili di BresciaRecruiting

  • A Study to Assess Efficacy, Long Term Safety and Tolerability of RT001 in Subjects With Friedreich's Ataxia
    on September 25, 2019 at 4:00 pm

    Condition:   Friedreich's AtaxiaInterventions:   Drug: RT001;   Drug: PlaceboSponsor:   Retrotope, Inc.Recruiting

  • Longitudinal Assessment of Atypical Tripeptidyl Peptidase 1 Enzyme Deficiency Patients
    on September 23, 2019 at 4:00 pm

    Conditions:   Neuronal Ceroid-Lipofuscinoses;   Neuronal Ceroid Lipofuscinosis CLN2;   Spinocerebellar Ataxia, Autosomal Recessive 7Intervention:   Sponsor:   Children’s Hospital of Orange CountyRecruiting

  • N-Acetyl-L-Leucine for Ataxia-Telangiectasia (A-T)
    on November 30, 2018 at 5:00 pm

    Conditions:   Ataxia Telangiectasia;   Louis Bar SyndromeIntervention:   Drug: IB1001Sponsor:   IntraBio IncRecruiting

  • Ataxia, Imaging, and Exercise Disease Using MRI and Gait Analysis
    on October 10, 2018 at 4:00 pm

    Conditions:   Ataxia;   Spino Cerebellar Degeneration;   Spinocerebellar AtaxiasInterventions:   Behavioral: Aerobic Training;   Behavioral: Balance TrainingSponsor:   Columbia UniversityRecruiting

Lifestyle Changes and Friends and Family

Adaptive devices are a crucial part of helping ataxia patients manage symptoms successfully. Based on their needs, they may use a cane, crutches, walker, or wheelchair. Sometimes, they may feel more comfortable with one device or another.

Friends and family should be mindful of a person’s condition. No one wants to be left out of activities because of ataxia. However, it may be necessary to slow walking pace. Avoid using stairs when possible. If speech is affected, listen carefully and do not talk over the person. Ask questions that let you understand the symptoms and when a change is needed.

Match to Ataxia Clinical Trials

  • Access to cutting-edge treatments
  • Latest clinical trials
  • Find trials in your area