What is Ataxia?


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

  • NAD+ Precursor Supplementation in Friedreich's Ataxia
    on March 25, 2021 at 4:00 pm

    Condition:   Friedreich AtaxiaIntervention:   Drug: MIB-626Sponsors:   Metro International Biotech, LLC;   Children's Hospital of PhiladelphiaRecruiting

  • Core Stability Exercises and Hereditary Ataxia
    on February 11, 2021 at 5:00 pm

    Conditions:   Hereditary Ataxia;   Spinocerebellar Degenerations;   Cerebellar AtaxiaInterventions:   Other: Therapeutic core stability exercises;   Other: Usual careSponsors:   Universitat Internacional de Catalunya;   Universitat de LleidaRecruiting

  • Neuropsychiatry and Cognition in SCA3/MJD
    on January 19, 2021 at 5:00 pm

    Conditions:   Spinocerebellar Ataxia Type 3;   Machado-Joseph Disease;   SCA3;   MJDInterventions:   Diagnostic Test: SCA3/MJD molecular diagnosis;   Diagnostic Test: Cognitive Testing;   Diagnostic Test: Psychiatric Evaluation;   Diagnostic Test: Clinical Neurological Evaluation;   Diagnostic Test: Emotional Attribution Evaluation;   Diagnostic Test: Activities of Daily LivingSponsor:   Hospital de Clinicas de Porto AlegreRecruiting

  • Coronary Artery Disease in Patients With Friedreich's Ataxia
    on December 2, 2020 at 5:00 pm

    Condition:   Friedreich AtaxiaIntervention:   Diagnostic Test: plethysmographySponsors:   University of Pittsburgh;   Friedreich's Ataxia Research AllianceRecruiting

  • A Study to Assess the Efficacy and Safety of Vatiquinone for the Treatment of Participants With Friedreich Ataxia
    on October 6, 2020 at 4:00 pm

    Condition:   Friedreich AtaxiaInterventions:   Drug: Vatiquinone;   Drug: PlaceboSponsor:   PTC TherapeuticsRecruiting

  • Home Based Tele-exercise for People With Chronic Neurological Impairments
    on September 25, 2020 at 4:00 pm

    Conditions:   Neurologic Disorder;   Stroke;   Spinal Cord Injuries;   Cerebral Palsy;   Hemiplegia;   Hemiparesis;   Multiple Sclerosis;   Parkinson Disease;   Trauma, Brain;   Transverse Myelitis;   Friedreich AtaxiaIntervention:   Behavioral: Seated exerciseSponsor:   Burke Medical Research InstituteRecruiting

  • Biomarker for Friedreich's Ataxia (BioFridA)
    on September 16, 2020 at 4:00 pm

    Conditions:   FXN Gene;   FRDA;   Hereditary DiseasesIntervention:   Sponsor:   CENTOGENE GmbH RostockRecruiting

  • Investigating the Genetic and Phenotypic Presentation of Ataxia and Nucleotide Repeat Diseases
    on August 27, 2020 at 4:00 pm

    Conditions:   Spinocerebellar Ataxias;   Cerebellar Ataxia;   Nucleotide Repeat DiseaseIntervention:   Other: Specimen collectionSponsor:   Mayo ClinicRecruiting

  • 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

  • A Natural History Study to TRACK Brain and Spinal Cord Changes in Individuals With Friedreich Ataxia (TRACK-FA)
    on April 16, 2020 at 4:00 pm

    Condition:   Friedreich AtaxiaIntervention:   Other: Natural historySponsors:   Monash University;   University of Minnesota;   RWTH Aachen University;   University of Campinas, Brazil;   Children's Hospital of Philadelphia;   University of Florida;   Friedreich's Ataxia Research AllianceRecruiting

  • Phenotypes, Biomarkers and Pathophysiology in Spastic Ataxias
    on March 6, 2020 at 5:00 pm

    Condition:   Spastic AtaxiaInterventions:   Other: Clinical rating scale to measure Ataxia disease severity and progression;   Other: Clinical rating scale to measure spastic paraplegia disease severity and progression;   Other: Disease-specific severity index for adults with autosomal recessive spastic ataxia of Charlevoix-Saguenay (ARSACS);   Diagnostic Test: Next-Gen Sequencing (NGS)Sponsors:   Dr. Rebecca Schule;   German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases (DZNE);   German Research FoundationRecruiting

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