Acute cerebellar ataxia is a disorder of the nervous system. It is marked by 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.
If you suspect you or your child has this condition, call the doctor right away.
Cerebellum (Darker Pink Section)
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
Causes of acute cerebellar ataxia include:
Viral infections, including:
ChickenpoxCoxsackie diseaseEpstein-Barr virusMycoplasma pneumoniaHIV infectionLyme disease
Exposure to certain toxins, such as
, and organophosphates
found in insecticides
Cerebellar hemorrhage, abscess, blood clot, or obstruction of an arteryParaneoplastic syndromes—occurs when the immune system attacks the cerebellum
Causes of recurrent or chronic acute ataxia include: StrokeMalformation of the cerebellumMultiple sclerosisMigraine
vertigoGenetic or metabolic disordersAutoimmune diseases, such as anticardiolipin antibody syndromeBrain tumorAlcoholismSeizures
While it can occur at any age, acute cerebellar ataxia is most common in young children. It can occur several weeks after a viral infection, such as
. Most cases go away without treatment in a matter of months. However, recurrent or chronic progressive cerebellar ataxia does occur.
These factors increase the chances of developing acute cerebellar ataxia: Age, especially children three years of age or youngerViral infectionsRecent vaccinationExposure to certain insecticides, drugs, or toxins
Do not assume the following symptoms are due to acute cerebellar ataxia. These symptoms may be caused by other conditions. Uncoordinated movements of the limbs or trunkClumsiness with daily activitiesDifficulty walkingSpeech disturbances with slurred speech and changes in tone, pitch, and volumeVisual complaintsAbnormal eye movements
Accompanying symptoms may include:
HeadacheNausea and vomitingDizzinessChanges in mental state, such as personality or behavioral changesChaotic eye movementsClumsy speech pattern
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical and family history. A physical exam will also be done. Your limb coordination will be observed to assess the degree and nature of the ataxia.
Further tests may include:
You may need to have your bodily fluids and tissues tested. This can be done with:
Lumbar punctureBlood testsUrine analysis
You may need to have pictures taken of your bodily structures. This can be done with:
MRI scanCT scanUltrasound
You may need to have your nerve and muscle activity tested. This can be done with:
Nerve conduction studyElectromyography
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, your doctor will treat the cause.
In some cases, you may have continuing and disabling symptoms. Treatment includes: CorticosteroidsIV immune globulinPlasma exchange
Drug treatment to improve muscle coordination has a low success rate. However, the following drugs may be prescribed: ClonazepamAmantadineGabapentinBuspirone
Occupational or physical therapy may also play a role in alleviating lack of coordination. Changes to diet and nutritional supplements may also help.
There is no way to prevent acute cerebellar ataxia except to vaccinate children against viral infections that increase their risk of getting this condition.
Berman P. Ataxia in children.
Bradley WG, Daroff RB.
Neurology in Clinical Practice
Philadelphia, PA: Butterworth Heinemann Publishing; 2004.
Ishikawa N, Kobayashi M. Recurrent acute cerebellar ataxia associated with anti-cardiolipin antibodies.
2009; Aug 22.
Mehta SH, Morgan JC, Sethi KD. Paraneoplastic movement disorders.
Curr Neurol Neurosci Rep
Ropper AH, Brown RH.
Adams and Victor's Principles of Neurology
8th ed. New York, NY: McGraw-Hill Medical Publishing Division; 2005: chap 33.
Last reviewed March 2013 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.
Copyright © EBSCO Publishing. All rights reserved.