Ataxia can be caused by many different diseases, for this reason it is important that patients undergo a thorough evaluation by a fellowship-trained movement disorders neurologist.
Diagnostic tests generally include:
- Complete clinical evaluation: personal medical history, family history, neurological exam
- Brain imaging studies such as Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
- Blood tests
- Other tests
During the clinical evaluation, a physician who specializes in ataxia might detect clues, such as symptoms and physical findings that may hint at a particular form of ataxia. The physician would then plan follow-up diagnostic tests accordingly.
Follow up Diagnostic Tests include:
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)
This test takes images of the brain and is used to look for abnormalities that may cause ataxia such as: atrophy (shrinkage) of the cerebellum, stroke, tumors, multiple sclerosis, and congenital malformations.
- Blood Tests
These tests can discover other causes of ataxia such as: vitamin deficiencies, metabolic problems like hypothyroidism, and infectious diseases like HIV and syphilis.
Additional tests that may be recommended:
- Evoked Potentials
Measure electrical activity in certain areas of the brain when specific sensory nerve pathways are stimulated.
- Vestibular Function
Investigate balance problems that occur in the inner ear.
- Electroencephalography (EEG)
Measures the level of electrical activity in the brain to detect abnormalities.