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Ataxic Cerebral Palsy

Cerebral palsy is a condition that affects body movement and muscle coordination. With no singular cause, several possible factors can lead to cerebral palsy, spanning several conditions. Cerebral palsy is caused by brain damage occurring either during pregnancy, during delivery, or shortly after delivery. With several different types of cerebral palsy, each being classified by the way in which they affect the individual, ataxic cerebral palsy is the least common form. Ataxic cerebral palsy affects 5 to 10 percent of individuals with cerebral palsy.

Ataxic cerebral palsy is caused by damage to the cerebellum, which is in the base of the brain. The cerebellum is the control center for balance and coordination and coordinates the actions for different groups of muscles. Ataxic cerebral palsy therefore affects coordination of movement. Ataxic cerebral palsy usually affects all four limbs and the trunk. In addition, ataxic cerebral palsy is characterized by poor or low muscle tone, also known as hypotonic.

Ataxic cerebral palsy can affect an individual in several ways. A person with ataxic cerebral palsy will usually have a wide-based gait, or walk. Because of their poor sense of balance they tend to walk with their feet unusually far apart. In appearance, a person with ataxic cerebral palsy will look very unsteady and shaky. This is due to low muscle tone where the body is constantly trying to counter-balance itself.

The most significant characteristic of ataxic cerebral palsy is tremor, especially when attempting quick or precise movements, such as writing or buttoning a shirt. Also known as intention tremor, this symptom of ataxic cerebral palsy worsens when attempting a voluntary movement. For example, when reaching for an object, such as a book, the hand and arm will begin to shake. As the hand gets closer to the object the trembling gets more severe, increasing the completion time necessary for the task.

Although there is no cure for intention tremor in ataxic cerebral palsy, several treatments for cerebral palsy can help in reducing its effects. Although not suggested for long term us in ataxic cerebral palsy, drugs such as primidone and benzodiazepine can be effective in alleviating ataxic cerebral palsy symptoms. Botulinum toxin A, commonly referred to as botox, has also been found effective in treating head, hand, and voice tremors by relaxing tightened muscles.

A relatively new technique in treating intention tremor in ataxic cerebral palsy is cooling. Cooling of the forearm is achieved by wrapping the forearm, excluding the wrist and hand, in a cryomanchet using a circulating fluid. After being cooled, the arm of the individual with intention tremor experienced reduced tremor for approximately 30 minutes after cooling. Cooling of the arm may be useful before performing activities of daily life such as applying make up, taking a meal, or writing and signing documents. As a consequence, this may lead to a decrease in patients' dependency on caregivers.

Ataxic cerebral palsy can be extremely difficult for an individual to handle. Through testing different methods of treatment the most effective method can give some independence to an individual affected by ataxic cerebral palsy. A team of medical practitioners is necessary to properly evaluate the patient and determine which treatment is right for them.

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