If you’ve been diagnosed with Ataxia or are experiencing problems with your coordination and balance, it’s important to be seen by a team of specialists who focus on ataxia. At the Ataxia Clinic, part of the Division of Neurology at the University of Michigan Health System, we have one of the most comprehensive ataxia programs in the country. That means you can be sure your diagnosis is correct and you’re getting the best treatment.
About 50% of the time, patients referred to us with the diagnosis with ataxia don’t actually have the disorder. Other movement disorders can produce balance issues, which can be confused with ataxia. Because of our high volume of patients and dedicated Ataxia Clinic, we have a better understanding of the disorder and how to recognize it.The term ataxia refers to a group of progressive neurological diseases that affect coordination and balance. Ataxias are often characterized by poor coordination of hands and eye movements, speech problems and a wide-based and unsteady gait. We also see patients with other balance disorders in the Ataxia Clinic. Common disorders in these categories include: Spinocerebellar ataxias (SCA), Friedreich's ataxia and other recessive ataxias, episodic ataxias, multiple system atrophy, progressive supranuclear palsy, and corticobasal degeneration.
Many treatment options for ataxia are supportive treatments to improve quality of life, which can include aggressive physical therapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy. Reversible forms of ataxia can benefit from medication.We may advise genetic testing for you before diagnosis, because genetic testing has the potential to help with diagnosis and to select proper treatment. Plus, this one test may be all that’s needed to confirm your diagnosis, keeping you from requiring a battery of other tests. We will gather a comprehensive medical history and perform a physical exam. In addition, we may order blood work, an MRI of your brain and spine, as well as an electromyography (EMG) to measure the electrical activity of your muscles.
Our multidisciplinary ataxia clinic has physicians, a physical therapist, speech pathologist and social worker in the clinic to evaluate and assist with managing symptoms. Patients in the multi-disciplinary ataxia clinic have access to the best recommendations from a medical, physical therapy, speech therapy and social work perspective.