Ataxia Report Summary

Ataxia Report Summary

Author or authors of report : National Health Service
Date of report : 2021-04-16
National Health Service

Types of Ataxia

The NHS report categorizes ataxia into three broad types:
  1. Acquired Ataxia: This type develops due to external factors such as trauma, stroke, multiple sclerosis, brain tumors, or nutritional deficiencies that damage the brain or nervous system.
  2. Hereditary Ataxia: This type is caused by faulty genes inherited from parents and develops slowly over many years. Friedreich's ataxia is the most common type.
  3. Idiopathic Late-Onset Cerebellar Ataxia (ILOCA): This occurs when the brain is progressively damaged over time for unclear reasons.


Ataxia usually results from damage to the cerebellum, a part of the brain responsible for coordination. It can also be caused by damage to other parts of the nervous system. The damage can be due to an underlying condition like multiple sclerosis, head injury, lack of oxygen to the brain, or long-term excessive alcohol consumption. In the case of hereditary ataxia, a faulty gene is passed on by family members, who may or may not be affected themselves.


There is generally no cure for ataxia. Supportive treatments are used to control symptoms and may include speech and language therapy, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and medication for muscle, bladder, heart, and eye problems. In some cases, treating the underlying cause can improve or halt the progression of ataxia.


The prognosis for ataxia varies considerably depending on the type. Some types may remain stable or even improve, but most will worsen over time. Life expectancy is generally shorter for people with hereditary ataxia, although some can live well into their 50s or 60s. In severe cases, the condition can be fatal in childhood or early adulthood. For acquired ataxia, the outlook depends on the underlying cause; some cases may improve or remain stable, while others may worsen over time and reduce life expectancy.


The NHS report provides a comprehensive understanding of ataxia, its types, causes, treatment options, and outlook. It emphasizes the importance of supportive treatments to manage symptoms, as there is generally no cure. The report also highlights the varying prognosis based on the type of ataxia, making it crucial for patients and healthcare providers to understand the specific type and underlying causes for effective management.