Appendicular Ataxia: Definition, Causes & Symptoms

Instructor: Dan Washmuth

Dan has taught college Nutrition, Anatomy, Physiology, and Sports Nutrition courses and has a master's degree in Dietetics & Nutrition.

Appendicular ataxia is a condition that results in a decrease in coordination in the extremities. In this lesson, learn about the definition, causes, and symptoms of appendicular ataxia.

Appendicular Ataxia

Gloria is a 73-year-old retired secretary who had just been in a serious car accident that resulted in giving her a concussion. She thought she was fully recovered, but over the past couple of days, she has begun having problems with the coordination of her arms and hands. When she tries to eat, she has difficulty bringing her fork and spoon to her mouth. When she brings a fork or spoon up to her mouth, she misses her mouth, and the fork or spoon ends up hitting her nose, chin, or cheek.

Normal daily activities such as brushing her teeth and combing her hair have also become very challenging due to this lack of coordination in her hands and arms. Additionally, her hands and arms involuntarily shake at times.

These symptoms worried Gloria, so she decided to go to the hospital to get checked out. At the hospital, the doctor and nurse took Gloria through several different tests to try to find out what was causing her recent coordination problems. Once the results of the tests came back, the doctor brought Gloria into his office and informed her that she has appendicular ataxia.

Appendicular ataxia is a condition that results in a decrease in coordination in the extremities, most noticeably in the arms and hands. A person with this condition will have difficulty performing smooth muscle movements in their extremities, and their extremities might involuntarily shake at times.

Appendicular Ataxia: Causes

Appendicular ataxia is usually caused by lesions or damaged areas of tissue on the cerebellum. The cerebellum is the region of the brain that controls muscle movement and coordination throughout the body. The lateral hemispheres of the cerebellum are the areas of the cerebellum that specifically control the coordination and movement of the extremities, which include the arms, hands, legs, and feet.

The cerebellum controls the coordination and muscle movements throughout the body.

Lesions to the lateral hemisphere of the cerebellum will impact the coordination and movement of the extremities, resulting in appendicular ataxia. These lesions or damaged areas of the cerebellum can be caused by strokes, traumatic brain injuries, tumors, and brain aneurysms.

Appendicular Ataxia: Symptoms

Since appendicular ataxia affects the coordination and movements of the extremities, symptoms of this condition revolve around normal daily activities becoming very difficult. A person with appendicular ataxia will have difficulties eating, drinking, brushing their teeth, writing, and typing. For example, Gloria began to have problems when she was eating. When she tried to bring the fork or spoon up to her mouth, she would often miss her mouth and hit her nose, chin, or cheek with the fork or spoon.

Appendicular ataxia can make it very difficult to perform normal daily activities such as brushing teeth.
brushing teeth

Oftentimes, a person with appendicular ataxia will also have involuntary trembling or tremors in their arms, hands, legs, and feet. These tremors usually become more pronounced when the person is trying to perform a task such as eating or brushing their teeth.

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