Because of the complexity of ataxia, our team evaluates the most appropriate options for each patient to treat its symptoms:
- For some cases, we treat the underlying causes of the disorder to improve the condition or prevent it from getting worse.
- Some ataxias, like those caused by infections, may be temporary and get better on their own.
- Some may be related to something as simple as a vitamin deficiency and be treated by taking a daily supplement.
At UT Southwestern, our experts are fellowship-trained in movement disorders and specialize in leading-edge care to treat ataxia.
Based on our evaluation and the cause of your ataxia, we’ll work with you to develop a care plan, which may include one or more of the following, depending on the cause of your ataxia:
- Medication: Medication may ease the symptoms by treating the condition that caused the ataxia, so medical treatment of ataxia depends on its underlying cause.
There isn’t one medication that treats all ataxias; the treatment is dependent on the cause and type of ataxia. Medications such as riluzole and varenicline have been shown to be beneficial in certain types of ataxias and are selectively administered to patients who might benefit from them.
Other agents such as coenzyme Q-10, vitamin E, alpha-lipoic, vitamin B12, thiamine, chenodeoxycholic acid, steroids, and immunosuppressants have been successfully used to treat certain ataxias.
- Speech therapy: A speech and language therapist can help with two of the most common symptoms of ataxia – slurred speech and swallowing problems.
- Ophthalmological evaluation for blurred vision
- Swallowing and speech assessment to prevent dysphagia (difficulty swallowing)
- Genetic counseling: Genetic testing and counseling is available for people with hereditary ataxia and their family members.
For patients considering starting a family, our Obstetrics/Gynecology department offers genetic screening for mutations associated with ataxia. Through in vitro fertilization, embryos can be tested for genetic mutations before implantation, allowing couples at risk for hereditary ataxia to greatly reduce the risk of their child inheriting the condition.
- Physical therapy: Progressive ataxias often benefit from rehabilitation and exercise to stabilize balance and minimize injury from falls. UT Southwestern’s physical therapists are specifically trained in exercises for patients with ataxia.
Patients meet with a physical therapist who will put together a set of exercises that are specific to their needs. After completing your physical therapy sessions, your therapist will develop a home exercise program so you can continue your therapy at home.
The goal of physical therapy is to improve the ability to stabilize your body so that you can stand, walk, and function independently for as long as possible. Physical therapy can be effective in helping sustain mobility as the ataxia progresses.
Most ataxia patients have follow-up appointments with their neurologist every four to six months depending on the severity of their symptoms.
Request an Appointment
To schedule an appointment with an ataxia expert at UT Southwestern’s facilities in Dallas, or to learn more about our services, request an appointment or call 214-645-8300.