What is Ataxia?

What is ataxia?
Ataxia is the name given to a group of rare neurological disorders that affect balance, coordination, and speech. There are many different types of ataxia that can affect people in different ways.

Who gets ataxia?
Anyone of any age can get ataxia, but certain types are more common in certain age groups. For example, people with Friedreich’s ataxia are usually diagnosed in childhood or adolescence.

How many people have ataxia?
The ataxias are rare conditions:

  • >100,000 people in Europe have ataxia.
  • The most commonly inherited ataxia, Friedreich's ataxia, has a prevalence of 1:29,000.
  • Inherited childhood ataxias have a prevalence of 1:21,692.

Is there any cure?
Some forms of ataxia are treatable, but in most cases there is still no cure. Despite this, research is constantly ongoing towards finding new treatments and cures.

What causes ataxia?
There are many different causes for ataxia. It's important to remember that ataxia is a symptom and may occur as a result of many different underlying conditions (such as MS). It can also occur due to head trauma or intoxication. Many ataxias are inherited conditions and caused by having defects in certain genes. The most common inherited progressive ataxia is Friedreich’s ataxia. Research is ongoing to identify other genes which cause inherited cerebellar ataxias and discover how they exert their effects. However, there are still many people who do not have a specific diagnosis for their inherited ataxia. These people would be diagnosed as having idiopathic cerebellar ataxia and there are many researchers focusing on finding new genes and new types of ataxias.

To find out more information about ataxia, view an information leaflet produced by Ataxia UK, for more information please visit the websites of the individual member groups.