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.
Cerebellum (Darker Pink Section)
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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 in the area of a cancer
Causes of recurrent or chronic acute ataxia include: StrokeMalformation of the cerebellum
Autoimmune diseases, including multiple sclerosisMigraine
vertigoGenetic or metabolic disordersBrain tumorAlcoholismCertain medications
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 toxinsHaving cancer
Symptoms of acute cerebellar ataxia may include: 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 movements
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical and family history. A physical exam will be done.
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
Medications to improve muscle coordination
Occupational or physical therapy may also be needed. 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.
Frequently asked questions. University of Chicago Ataxia Center website. Available at:
. Updated November 9, 2010. Accessed November 15, 2013.
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. 2009;9(4):285-91.
Last reviewed November 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.
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