Thank you for visiting Orange County Ataxia, a Chapter of the National Ataxia Foundation.
The word ataxia, comes from the Greek word, a taxis meaning without order or incoordination. The word ataxia means without coordination. People with ataxia have problems with coordination because parts of the nervous system that control movement and balance are affected. Ataxia may affect the fingers, hands, arms, legs, body, speech, and eye movements. The word ataxia is often used to describe a symptom of incoordination which can be associated with infections, injuries, other diseases, or degenerative changes in the central nervous system. Ataxia is also used to denote a group of specific degenerative diseases of the nervous system called the hereditary and sporadic ataxias which are the National Ataxia Foundations primary emphases.
Diagnosis is based on a persons medical history, family history, and a complete neurological evaluation including an MRI scan of the brain. Various blood tests may be performed to rule out other possible disorders that may present similar symptoms. Genetic blood tests are now available for some types of hereditary ataxia to confirm a diagnosis or as a predictive test to determine if someone has inherited an ataxia gene known to affect other family members.
The hereditary ataxias are genetic, which means they are caused by a defect in a certain gene that is present from the start of a persons life. All of us have genes that have little mistakes or variations but most of these do not cause disease, they are called mutations. The hereditary ataxias can be divided into those that are dominantly inherited and those that are recessively inherited.