Ataxia is a symptom or medical condition that causes poor muscle coordination and clumsy movement. In this article, we define the term “ataxia” and explain how it relates to birth injury law. 

Key Takeaways

  • Ataxia is either a symptom or a group of diseases characterized by poor muscle control and awkward movement
  • Ataxia can lead to difficulty with tasks like walking, speech, and balance 
  • Types of ataxia include cerebellar, sensory, and vestibular
  • Causes of ataxia include acquired ataxia, hereditary ataxia, and idiopathic late-onset cerebellar ataxia (ILOCA)
  • Treatments for ataxia focus on managing the symptoms through speech therapy, physical therapy, occupational therapy, and medication 
  • Ataxia can be caused by damage to the cerebellum during childbirth
  • When healthcare professionals cause ataxia due to negligence during childbirth, it may be considered medical malpractice 

What Is Ataxia?

Ataxia is characterized by poor muscle control that causes a person to move in an uncertain, awkward, or clumsy way. It can lead to difficulty with walking, balance, speech, swallowing, hand coordination, and eye movements. 

The term “ataxia” can refer either to a group of diseases or a symptom of certain diseases. Ataxia as a symptom is very common, while ataxia as a condition is rare and happens only with certain genetic conditions and diseases.

Types of Ataxia

The types of ataxia include:

  • Cerebellar - Caused by a problem in the cerebellum, the part of the brain that coordinates voluntary movements
  • Sensory - A disruption in the body’s proprioception
  • Vestibular - Involving a problem with the inner ears and balance 

Causes of Ataxia

The possible causes of ataxia include:

  • Acquired ataxia - Caused by problems that damage the brain or nervous system such as trauma, stroke, multiple sclerosis (MS), brain tumor, or nutritional deficiencies.
  • Hereditary ataxia - Inherited by the parents. The most common type of hereditary ataxia is Friedreich's ataxia.
  • Idiopathic late-onset cerebellar ataxia (ILOCA) - The progressive damage of the brain  without clear reason. 

Treatments for Ataxia 

In most cases, ataxia has no cure, and treatment is focused on controlling the symptoms. These types of treatment include:

  • Speech therapy
  • Physical therapy
  • Occupational therapy
  • Medication 

Ataxia and Birth Injury Law

One possible cause of ataxia is damage to the cerebellum during childbirth. This can lead to ataxic cerebral palsy, which causes symptoms like depth perception difficulties, unsteady walking, shaky hands, and low muscle tone. 

There are a number of ways that the cerebellum could be damaged during childbirth including:

  • Fetal distress during labor
  • Delayed C-section
  • Misuse of forceps or other birthing tools
  • Exposing the birthing parent to toxins
  • Direct trauma to the brain

If your child has ataxia caused by a medical professional’s failure to meet the standard of care, you may be eligible for compensation that can help you pay for medical bills, treatments, therapy, and more. It is recommended that you speak to an experienced birth injury lawyer who will be able to help you navigate your medical malpractice case.

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