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Ataxia Treatment

Ataxia is an abnormal lack of coordination that can cause a stumbling gait, difficulty with fine motor activities, and vision and sometimes speech problems.

Ataxia is a symptom, and can occur with a range of health problems including vitamin deficiencies and genetic mutations. Johns Hopkins’ Ataxia Center focuses on people whose ataxia symptoms are worsening over time. We offer long-term, multidisciplinary care to help you navigate both symptoms and underlying conditions.

Ataxia Treatment: Why Choose Johns Hopkins

  • The large number of patients we treat gives our specialists exceptional expertise in assessing, diagnosing and treating the full range of ataxia symptoms.
  • Our ataxia team includes neurologists and experts in other specialties, including physical therapy, diet, genetic counseling and speech-language pathology, who all work together to help identify underlying conditions and manage symptoms.
  • Patients are seen by experts from a variety of specialties, in one clinic, on the same day.
  • Johns Hopkins specialists are researcher-clinicians who can incorporate the latest scientific findings on ataxia into your treatment plan.

Ataxia Treatment at Johns Hopkins: What to Expect

During your initial consultation, one of our ataxia specialists will talk to you about your medical history, family history of neurological problems, possible exposure to toxins and your specific symptoms.

Ataxia is associated with a variety of health conditions, but in some cases, the cause is unclear. Your doctor will likely recommend a series of tests to help narrow down the diagnosis. These tests may include blood tests, brain and spinal cord imaging, muscle and nerve tests, and genetic testing.

  • If the underlying cause of ataxia is determined, your treatment will focus on addressing this underlying condition and, if possible, reversing the dysfunction.
  • If the cause of ataxia is still unclear or has a genetic component, your treatment will focus on managing ataxia symptoms and helping you improve your quality of life.

Ataxia Treatment Options

Medications

Medication typically has minimal impact on slowing ataxia’s progression unless it is caused by nutritional deficiencies. In that case, it responds well to supplements. Examples of treatable ataxias include those due to deficiencies of vitamin E or coenzyme Q10, and episodic ataxia type 2.

Drug therapies are available to reduce leg spasticity and address some cerebellar tremors. Several medications can be used for specific symptoms of spinocerebellar ataxia.

Other Treatments

Other ataxia interventions include physical and occupational therapy, and adaptive devices such as a cane, walker or wheelchair. Patients with ataxia may benefit from regular physical and mental exercise, and eating healthy and sleeping well.

Ataxia patients are sometimes at a higher risk of mixing medications, falling or developing aspiration pneumonia. Our team will work closely with you and your primary care physician to minimize these risks and help maintain your overall health.

Patient Resources

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Maryland Patients

To request an appointment or refer a patient, please contact the Johns Hopkins Ataxia Center at 410-616-2816.

 

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