June is Aphasia Awareness Month Infographic
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Quick facts about Ataxia according to www.ataxia.org:
It’s a degenerative disease of the nervous system.
Many symptoms mimic those of being drunk, such as slurred speech and incoordination.
Symptoms are caused by damage to the cerebellum, the part of the brain responsible for coordinating movement.
Treatment involves a combination of medication to treat symptoms and therapy to improve quality of life.
People affected may experience problems with using their fingers and hands, arms, legs, walking, speaking or moving their eyes.
Ataxia affects people of all ages.
Age of symptom-onset can vary, from childhood to late-adulthood.
Complications from the disease are serious and oftentimes debilitating.
Some types of Ataxia can lead to an early death.
Rate of progression varies; symptoms may worsen slowly, over decades – or quickly, over mere months.
Common symptoms of Ataxia are:
  • Lack of coordination
  • Slurred speech
  • Trouble eating and swallowing
  • Deterioration of fine motor skills
  • Difficulty walking
  • Gait abnormalities
  • Eye movement abnormalities
  • Tremors
  • Heart problems
Individuals with Ataxia often require the use of wheelchairs, walkers, and/or scooters to aid in their mobility.
Some of the main types of ataxia described below according to www.nhs.uk are:
Friedreich’s ataxia
Friedreich’s ataxia is the most common type of hereditary ataxia. It’s thought to affect at least 1 in every 50,000 people. Symptoms usually first develop before the age of 25. Signs and symptoms of Friedreich’s ataxia can include:
  • problems with balance and co-ordination, often causing wobbliness, clumsiness and frequent falls
  • increasingly slurred, slow and unclear speech
  • increasing weakness in the legs – many people find walking difficult and need to use a wheelchair after around 10 to 20 years
  • difficulty swallowing
  • abnormal curvature of the spine
  • total or partial vision loss and hearing loss
  • diabetes
  • thickening of the heart muscles
  • loss of sensation in the hands and feet
The symptoms of Friedreich’s ataxia usually get gradually worse over many years. People with the condition tend to have a shorter life expectancy than normal. Many people live until at least their 30s, and some can live into their 60s or beyond.
Ataxia-telangiectasia (AT) is a rarer type of hereditary ataxia. Symptoms usually begin in early childhood, although they can sometimes develop later.
Signs and symptoms of AT can include:
  • difficulty walking – most children need to use a wheelchair by 10 years of age
  • increasingly slurred, slow and unclear speech
  • difficulty swallowing
  • small spider-like clusters of red blood vessels in the corner of their eyes and on their cheeks
  • very slow eye movements, which may mean the person has to move their head a lot to compensate for this
  • a weakened immune system – children with AT are more vulnerable to infections
  • an increased risk of cancer, particularly acute lymphoblastic leukaemia or lymphoma
The symptoms of AT tend to get worse quite quickly. People with the condition usually live until the age of 19 to 25, although some may live into their 50s.
Spinocerebellar ataxias
Spinocerebellar ataxias (SCAs) are a group of hereditary ataxias that often don’t begin until adulthood. Occasionally, some types of SCA begin in childhood.
The symptoms vary depending on the type of SCA. They can include:
  • problems with balance and co-ordination – many people find walking difficult and need to use a wheelchair after a few years
  • increasingly slurred, slow and unclear speech
  • difficulty swallowing
  • muscle stiffness and cramps
  • loss of sensation in the hands and feet
  • memory loss and difficulties with spoken language
  • slow eye movement, which means people have to move their head to compensate
  • reduced bladder control
Episodic ataxia
Episodic ataxia is a rare and unusual type of hereditary ataxia. Those may experience episodes of ataxia, but the rest of the time they have no or only mild symptoms.
During an episode, someone with episodic ataxia may experience:
  • problems with balance and co-ordination
  • slurred, slow and unclear speech
  • muscle spasms
  • involuntary eye movements
  • vertigo, migraines and tinnitus
Episodic ataxia usually first develops during the teenage years. The episodes can last from several minutes to hours. Usually result from triggers, such as sudden movement, stress, exercise, caffeine or alcohol.
The symptoms of episodic ataxia may disappear as a person gets older. Although sometimes the condition gets gradually worse over time. Medication can often help control attacks, and life expectancy is usually normal.
Other types of ataxia
There are also other types of ataxia that tend to have similar symptoms to those mentioned above. These include:
  • acquired ataxia – this can affect people of any age. Usually develops very quickly over the course of a few days. But sometimes hours; it may improve over time, stay the same or get slowly worse
  • idiopathic late-onset cerebellar ataxia – usually begins at around 50 years of age, and gets slowly worse over time
  • ataxia with vitamin E deficiency – a similar condition to Friedreich’s ataxia. Caused by problems with the body’s ability to use vitamin E in the diet. It’s often possible to control the symptoms with vitamin E supplements

There is no specific treatment for Ataxia but managing your symptoms with adaptive devices may help. You can check out all our adaptive devices we offer and for the Month of September 2020 we are offering a 10% discount on the 2 products below.

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