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Cerebellar Ataxia



Cerebellar Ataxia refers to a condition of unsteadiness of gate. Causes of ataxia are varied.  It includes, among others,  alcoholism, multiple sclerosis, brain tumors, thyroid disease and genetic abnormalities.  It may also result from a viral infection or chicken pox during childhood.  Various disorders fall under ataxia, including Freidrich’s Ataxia.  Cerebellar Ataxia  is caused by the degeneration of the cerebellum, the part of the brain that controls coordination and balance.  Onset varies greatly from childhood to late adulthood. Childhood onset of Cerebellar Ataxia is more than likely caused by genetic abnormalities.  Most of these cases are inherited in an autosomal recessive fashion, however, there have been rare cases where it has been traced to the X chromosome.


Common symptoms of Cerebellar Ataxia include sudden writhing movements of arms and legs and jerky eye movements.  The different types of Cerebellar Ataxia are classified according to cause and specific location affected, but their symptoms do not vary greatly.  In rare occasions, symptoms may subside on their own within a few months.


Genetic counseling is strongly encouraged in families with an incidence of Cerebellar Ataxia.  A thorough genetic and pedigree analysis must be done in order to determine the form of Cerebellar Ataxia the individual has.  Preimplantation Genetic Diagnosis (PGD) maybe of benefit to those families with the X-linked form of the disease.  PGD tests for genetic abnormalities in an embryo prior to implantation.  It can also determine the embryo’s gender.  Implanting only the embryos whose gender is not likely to develop the disease will greatly reduce the chance of having an affected child.  An experienced genetic counselor should be able to determine whether PGD will be beneficial.  PGD is available for a variety of X-linked diseases and other genetic disorders.  It is also being continually improved to encompass other genetic abnormalities.



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Last modified: 06/09/04