Word on Health

Word On Ataxia

Our grateful thanks to Ataxia UK for their assistance with putting together our radio report (which you can hear again via the audio player further down this page) and for the use of the information below. 

What is ataxia?   Ataxia is the name given to a group of neurological disorders that affect balance, coordination, and speech. There are many different types of ataxia that can affect people in different ways.  

Who gets ataxia?  Anyone of any age can get ataxia, but certain types are more common in certain age groups. For example, people with Friedreich’s ataxia are usually diagnosed in childhood or adolescence.   

How many people live with ataxia?  Around 10,000 adults in the UK have a type of ataxia. Ataxia UK is currently funding research to find out how many children have the condition – it’s thought there are several thousand.  

Is there any cure?   Some forms of ataxia are treatable, but in most cases there is still no cure. We are funding a wide range of research projects to try to find treatments that can help ataxia, and ultimately to find a cure.  

What causes ataxia?   It's important to remember that ataxia is a symptom and may occur as a result of many different underlying conditions (such as MS), and may also occur due to head trauma or intoxication. Ataxia not due to any of these factors may be inherited (caused by a faulty gene which is passed down through families) or non-inherited (sporadic). The most common inherited progressive ataxia worldwide is Friedreich’s ataxia, which is caused by a defect in the gene which is responsible for producing the protein frataxin. Research has already shown that the resulting deficiency in frataxin affects the function of mitochondria in cells and makes them more susceptible to oxidative stress damage. 

Ataxia UK  funds research into finding treatments and a cure for ataxia and supports people through a range of services. You can call Ataxia UK's helpline on 0845 644 0606. Opening hours are 10.30-2.30, Monday to Thursday. The helpline is closed on Fridays.

Listen to this weeks radio report

All material on this website is provided for your information only and may not be construed as medical advice or instruction. No action or inaction should be taken based solely on the contents of this information; instead, readers should consult appropriate health professionals on any matter relating to their health and well-being.