Ataxic Cerebral Palsy: Symptoms, Causes, & Treatment

Imagine sitting down to a delicious bowl of soup. You’re excited to dig in, but your hand shakes too much to bring the spoon to your mouth. Or you grab your shoelaces to tie them, but they slip away as if coated with butter. This is the reality for some individuals who live with ataxic cerebral palsy. 

This type of palsy can make everyday tasks like writing, eating, and walking difficult. In this article, we’ll explore what this disease entails, what causes it, and how to treat it. 

Child with cerebral palsy wears braces on legs.

What is Ataxic Cerebral Palsy?

Ataxic cerebral palsy is one type of cerebral palsy (CP). CP is a condition that affects movement and coordination.

With ataxic cerebral palsy, the part of the brain that controls balance and coordination doesn’t function the right way. This can make it difficult for a person to control their muscles. They can’t perform smooth, coordinated movements.

Ataxic CP is the rarest type of cerebral palsy. It affects just 5 to 10 percent of CP sufferers. 

What Makes Ataxic CP Different From Other Types of CP?

There are four main types of cerebral palsy: spastic, dyskinetic, ataxic, and mixed type. All involve muscle and movement issues.

 But what sets ataxic CP apart from other kinds? It affects balance and coordination more than anything else. Also, people with ataxic CP are less likely to have intellectual disabilities. 

The main characteristics of this condition are shaky motions and an unsteady gait. Patients may have difficulty performing tasks that require precise control, like writing or buttoning clothes. 

In contrast, people with spastic CP, the most common type, have stiff and tight muscles. They may have trouble moving specific parts of their body. Those with dyskinetic CP experience uncontrolled, involuntary muscle movements. 

Symptoms of Ataxic Cerebral Palsy

The hallmark symptoms of ataxic cerebral palsy are:

  • Limp posture
  • Walking with feet wide apart
  • Coordination issues 
  • Poor balance
  • Unsteady gait
  • Tremors
  • Difficulty moving fingers
  • Becomes noticeable later than other types (between 6 and 18 months of age) 
  • Slow eye movements 
  • “Monotone” and/or breathy voice

That doesn’t mean that all people with ataxic CP exhibit the symptoms above. Symptoms can vary greatly from person to person. The severity of symptoms can vary as well. 

Baby with ataxic cerebral palsy.

Causes of Ataxic Cerebral Palsy 

The main cause of ataxic CP is brain damage during pregnancy or childbirth. Specifically, it involves injury to the cerebellum. The cerebellum plays a crucial role in coordinating movements, balance, and muscle control.

Many different circumstances can cause brain damage that leads to CP. Here are some examples:

Prenatal Causes

Ataxic cerebral palsy can stem from pregnancy complications that affect a baby’s developing brain, such as:

  • Infections
  • Maternal health conditions
  • Exposure to toxins or medications

Perinatal Causes

The term perinatal means “during labor or delivery”. Labor issues that involve head trauma or oxygen deprivation can lead to ataxic cerebral palsy. Here are some examples:

Postnatal Causes

In some cases, ataxic CP may develop due to brain damage or injuries that occur after birth. This can be caused by:

  • Infections
  • Head injuries
  • Stroke
  • Failure to treat jaundice
  • Certain medical conditions that affect the brain

Treatment for Ataxic Cerebral Palsy

The main challenge people with ataxic CP have is maintaining balance and coordination. So physical therapy is an important part of their treatment plan. 

Other treatment options for ataxic CP may include:

Symptoms of ataxic cerebral palsy don’t get worse over time. It’s not a progressive condition. But complications from it can make life more challenging if a person goes untreated. With prompt support, people can reduce their symptoms and live normal, fulfilling lives. 

Hospital failed to warn of risks during childbirth.

Malpractice Can Lead to Cerebral Palsy 

Did you know that a medical practitioner’s negligence can cause brain damage that leads to CP? One example of this is when a doctor administers too much Pitocin (induction drug). It could also occur from applying too much pressure on a baby’s head with forceps. 

If your doctor made a mistake that caused ataxic cerebral palsy, you may be able to recover damages. This financial award can help pay for the treatment your child needs to live a better life. 

We have handled dozens of cases related to cerebral palsy. Some resulted in payouts in the millions. If you suspect foul play contributed to your child’s diagnosis, don’t hesitate to contact us. Allow us to wield our experience to your benefit, and help you see justice served. Call us now to find out if you have a case.