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Uncoordinated movement is also known as lack of coordination, coordination impairment, and loss of coordination. The medical term for this problem is ataxia.
For most people, body movements are smooth, coordinated, and seamless. Such things as walking, throwing a ball, and picking up a pencil are effortless for most of us. But each movement actually involves a number of muscle groups. They are largely controlled by the cerebellum. This is an important structure in the brain.
When communication between the brain and the rest of the body is disrupted in some way, ataxia may be the result. Movements appear jerky and unsteady. A person with ataxia may also have an unsteady walk or a tendency to stumble while walking. He or she may have problems with everyday tasks that require fine motor skills. These tasks include such seemingly simple things as eating or using a pen to write. Ataxia can have a profound effect on a person’s life.
Coordinated movements involve the cerebellum, the peripheral nerves of the body, and the spinal cord. Diseases and injuries that damage or destroy any of these structures can lead to ataxia. These include:
The toxic effects of some substances can lead to ataxia. These include:
The following list can help you decide whether you need to see a doctor about your ataxia. It applies to situations in which the ataxia does not have a clear cause. You should schedule a doctor’s visit right away if:
Your doctor will ask you about your medical history and perform a basic physical examination. He or she will also assess the function of your muscular and nervous systems. Balancing, walking, and pointing using the fingers and toes will all likely be assessed. Another commonly used test is the Romberg test. It is very simple. You stand with your feet together then close your eyes and see if you can balance.
Your doctor may also ask the following questions:
Your doctor may order the following tests:
There is no cure for ataxia itself. However, treating the underlying cause may relieve the symptoms in some cases. In other cases, your doctor may recommend adaptive devices or therapy.
If ataxia is caused by a chronic disorder such as cerebral palsy, your doctor may not be able to treat it. The following adaptive devices might make life easier:
Simple changes can make it easier for a person with ataxia to get around the house. For example:
Therapies that might help include:
Written by: Krista O'Connell
Medically reviewed on: Dec 23, 2016: Judith Marcin, MD
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