Are you aware of Ataxia?
If you're aware of ataxia, well done. You're part of the 13% of people in the UK who do. This is why annually, on 25 September, the organisation Ataxia UK asks supporters to help spread awareness and increase this percentage.
There are different types of ataxia, but generally speaking they are a rare group of neurological conditions that affect balance, speech and coordination. Most types are described as cerebellar ataxia (i.e. relating to the cerebellum, the part of the brain responsible for movement and coordination).
Ataxia can affect anyone. It can:
- be inherited via specific genes from one or both parents;
- develop as a result of vitamin deficiencies or long-term alcohol misuse; or
- develop as a result of damage to the brain - for example, through stroke or head injury.
Ataxia can also be a feature of other conditions, such as Cerebral Palsy or Multiple Sclerosis.
Symptoms include slurred speech, trouble swallowing, hand tremors, fatigue and problems with sight. As with many conditions, people are affected to varying degrees, so some people may have more severe symptoms than others.
Some people with the condition also describe migraines and temporary paralysis in certain limbs. The condition is usually progressive, so it worsens with time. As yet, there is no cure for ataxia.
If you'd like to read more about ataxia, this handy booklet goes into greater depth and is a great resource. If you have recently been diagnosed or have a family member with the condition and are contemplating getting tested, this Reddit thread might provide some insights and comfort. It's from four years ago, but is a good personal example from a woman who is very honest and open about her experience.
If you struggle with hand tremors and muscle weakness, you may find our easy-fasten items helpful.