Acute cerebellar ataxia is a disorder of the nervous system. It is the sudden onset of a disturbance in coordination. The cerebellum is the part of the brain that plays an important role in balance and coordination. It does not function properly in the case of cerebellar ataxia.
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Acute cerebellar ataxia may be caused by genetics, viral infections, autoimmune disorders, or injury. In some cases, the cause is unknown.
Acute cerebellar ataxia is more common in young children, but it can occur at any age. Other factors that may increase your risk of acute cerebellar ataxia include:
Viral infections, such as
Coxsackie virus, Epstein-Barr, or
Bacterial infections such as
Exposure to certain toxins, such as
alcohol, and organophosphates
found in insecticides
Cerebellar hemorrhage, abscess, blood clot, or obstruction of an arteryParaneoplastic syndromes—occurs when the immune system attacks the cerebellum in the area of a cancerCertain vaccinations
Recurrent acute cerebellar ataxia may marked by periods of inactivity and flares. Factors that may increase your chance of recurrent acute cerebellar ataxia include: StrokeMalformation of the cerebellum
Autoimmune diseases, including
vertigoGenetic or metabolic disordersBrain tumorAlcohol use disorderCertain medications
Acute cerebellar ataxia may cause: Uncoordinated movements of the limbs or trunkClumsiness with daily activitiesDifficulty walkingSpeech disturbances with slurred speech and changes in tone, pitch, and volumeVisual complaintsAbnormal eye movementsHeadacheNausea and vomitingLightheadednessChanges in mental state, such as personality or behavioral changesChaotic eye movementsDifficulty swallowing
You will be asked about your symptoms, and your medical and family history. A physical exam will be done.
Your bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with: Lumbar punctureBlood testsUrine tests
Images may be taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with: MRI scanCT scanUltrasound
Your nerve function may be tested. This can be done with a
nerve conduction study.
The electrical activity of your muscles may be tested. This can be done with an
The ataxia that occurs in children can often can go away in a few months without any treatment. In cases where an underlying cause is identified, the cause will be treated.
In some cases, you may have continuing and disabling symptoms. Treatment includes: CorticosteroidsIV immune globulinPlasma exchange
Medications to improve muscle coordination
Occupational or physical therapy may also be needed. Changes to diet and nutritional supplements may also help.
There are no current guidelines to prevent acute cerebellar ataxia. You can make sure that your child's vaccinations are up to date. This can prevent infections that increase their risk of getting this condition.
Cerebellar disorders. Patient UK website. Available at:
http://www.patient.co.uk/doctor/cerebellar-disorders. Updated July 29, 2014. Accessed November 18, 2014.
FAQ. University of Chicago Ataxia Center website. Available at:
http://ataxia.uchicago.edu/page/faq. Accessed November 18, 2014.
Ishikawa N, Kobayashi M. Recurrent acute cerebellar ataxia associated with anti-cardiolipin antibodies.
Brain Dev. 2010;32(7):588-591.
Mehta SH, Morgan JC, et al. Paraneoplastic movement disorders.
Curr Neurol Neurosci Rep. 2009;9(4):285-291.
NINDS encephalopathy information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at:
Updated November 9, 2010. Accessed November 18, 2014.
Last reviewed November 2015 by Rimas Lukas, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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