Symptoms Of Acute Cerebellar Ataxia: Causes And Treatment

Cerebellum is a vital area of brain that is involved in controlling movement, muscle tone and equilibrium of the body. It is situated in the hind part of brain. Any type of infection, inflammation or trauma to this part of brain can compromise its function such as proper gait, muscle tone and balance of the body. This condition in medical parlance is known as cerebellar ataxia.

Acute cerebellar ataxia mainly occurs in children below 7 years of age. However sometimes it may also occur in older children as well as adults. In children it usually occurs after viral infections such as measles, mumps, and chickenpox.

Symptoms of ataxia such as unsteady gait, slurred speech, may resolve on its own within few days or weeks if the underlying cause is virus infection. In case the cause is bacterial infection, patient may need to be treated with medicines to fight the infection.

What Causes Acute Cerebellar Ataxia?

Cerebellum is a portion of brain that is responsible for control of voluntary movement and muscle co-ordination. It means that cerebellum sends and receives message to and fro from the muscles and different organs of the body. Disarray of signal can thus affect function of cerebellum.

The cerebellum is damaged either due to infection or inflammatory process leading to a condition called cerebellar ataxia.

Cerebellar ataxia mainly occurs after an acute attack of viral disease. Children below the age of 7 are the main victims of this condition. It is more common after viral diseases such as chickenpox, measles, and mumps. These diseases are common in children. Sometimes acute cerebellar ataxia can also develop in adults. Here virus diseases such as Epstein-Barr syndrome may be the reason. Typhoid, mycoplasma, and herpes infection are also attributing factors for cerebellar ataxia.

This condition can also occur due to injury to cerebellum, bleeding of the cerebellar blood vessel, mercury and lead poisoning. Bacterial infection such as brain abscess and bacterial encephalitis are other causes of acute cerebellar ataxia.

Signs And Symptoms Of Acute Cerebellar Ataxia

The symptoms of acute cerebellar ataxia are sudden and abrupt. There may be history of fever, cough and cold before the onset of disease. In some cases patient may present with ataxia without any recent history of illness. The prominent symptom is unsteady gait of the child since one or two days. The child resists on his own to walk because of the unsteady gait. Other symptoms are;

  • Frequent falling due to unsteady gait.
  • The child is not able to walk straight.
  • While walking the patient bends on one side as he feels more balanced.
  • Due to fear of falling while walking, the patient walks with his legs apart and at quite distance. It also helps to balance his body while walking.
  • Due to lack of coordination of muscles of face and tongue, patient may have slurred speech.
  • Difficulty in swallowing in case if muscles of throat are involved.
  • Cannot write or talk properly due to constant tremors.
  • Rapid jerks in his eyes while seeing any object.

Treatment Options For Acute Cerebellar Ataxia

The cure of cerebellar ataxia will depend on the underlying cause. In vast majority of cases the condition is self limited, if the underlying cause is viral infection. The symptoms disappear after few days or months. Patient may not need any specific treatment in case of ataxia of viral origin.

But if there is a bacterial infection in the background or brain trauma, specific treatment therapy is always required, although some of the symptoms may stay permanently even after treatment. Patient is given antibiotics if it is bacterial cause. Surgery may be necessary if the cause is a large blood clot due to head injury.

Some patients may require speech therapy and physiotherapy depending on the severity of the condition. Homeopathic medicines such as gelsemium, agaricus, and conium are found to be effective in treating acute cerebellar ataxia.