Ataxia

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 these disorders. The Division of Neurology at the University of Michigan Health System, has one of the most comprehensive ataxia programs in the country. That means you can be sure that your diagnosis is correct and that you’re getting the best treatment. 

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 autoimmune associated ataxias. Spinocerebellar ataxias (SCA), Friedreich's ataxia and other recessive ataxias, episodic ataxias, multiple system atrophy, progressive supranuclear palsy, and corticobasal degeneration.

About half 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, our team has a detailed understanding of these disorders and how to recognize them. We will gather a comprehensive medical history and perform a physical exam. In addition, we may order blood work, an MRI of the brain and spine, as well as an electromyography (EMG) to measure the electrical activity of the muscles. We may also advise genetic testing before we can reach a definitive diagnosis, because genetic testing has the potential to help us understand the cause  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.

About half 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, our team has a detailed understanding of these disorders and how to recognize them. 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. We may also advise genetic testing for you before we can reach a definitive diagnosis, because genetic testing has the potential to help us understand the cause of your ataxia and to select proper treatments. Plus, the one test may be all that's needed to confirm your diagnosis, keeping you from requiring a battery of other tests.

For many ataxia patients, the best treatment options are supportive therapies aimed at improving patient quality of life. These include aggressive physical therapy, speech therapy and occupational therapy. Reversible forms of ataxia and some genetic forms of ataxia can benefit from targeted medications. For other patients, medication treatments can be used to help with specific symptoms that occur with ataxia. 

Our multidisciplinary ataxia clinic has physicians, a physical therapist, a speech pathologist, and a social worker in the clinic, all of whom are experts in the evaluation of ataxia and in providing assistance with managing symptoms. As such, our patients in the multi-disciplinary ataxia clinic have access to expert recommendations from a multidisciplinary team. In addition, our clinic is participating in clinical trials for patients with certain types of ataxia. A list of ongoing clinical trials currently enrolling in our movement disorders division can be found here.

Locations
4260 Plymouth Road
Ann Arbor, MI  48109
 

Ph:  734-764-6831