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.