Cerebellar ataxia; Ataxia - acute cerebellar; Cerebellitis; Post-varicella acute cerebellar ataxia; PVACA
Acute cerebellar ataxia is sudden inability to coordinate muscle movement due to disease or injury to the cerebellum. This is the area in the brain that controls muscle movement. Ataxia means loss of muscle coordination, especially of the hands and legs.
Acute cerebellar ataxia in children, particularly younger than age 3, may occur several days or weeks after an illness caused by a virus.
Other causes of acute cerebellar ataxia include:
Ataxia may affect movement of the middle part of the body from the neck to the hip area (the trunk) or the arms and legs (limbs).
When the person is sitting, the body may move side-to-side, back-to-front, or both. Then the body quickly moves back to a sitting upright position.
When a person with ataxia of the arms reaches for an object, the hand may sway back and forth.
Common symptoms of ataxia include:
The health care provider will ask if the person has recently been sick and will try to rule out any other causes of the problem. Brain and nervous system examination will be done to identify the most affected areas of the nervous system.
The following tests may be ordered:
Treatment depends on the cause:
People whose condition was caused by a recent viral infection should make a full recovery without treatment in a few months. Strokes, bleeding, or infections may cause permanent symptoms.
Falls may result in injury.
In rare cases, movement or behavioral disorders may persist.
Contact your provider if any symptoms of ataxia appear.
Kuo SH, Lin CC, Ashizawa T. Cerebellar ataxia. In: Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, Pomeroy SL, Newman NJ, eds. Bradley and Daroff's Neurology in Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2022:chap 23.
Mink JW. Movement disorders. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 615.BACK TO TOP
Review Date: 1/23/2023
Reviewed By: Joseph V. Campellone, MD, Department of Neurology, Cooper Medical School of Rowan University, Camden, NJ. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David C. Dugdale, MD, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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