Cerebral palsy is a condition in which brain abnormalities or damage interfere with the normal relaying of nerve messages from the brain to the nervous system. Ataxic cerebral palsy is one of the rarer forms of cerebral palsy which is marked by a loss of muscle coordination, particularly in the limbs. Damage to the cerebellum, the brain’s control center for balance and coordination, is the main cause of ataxic cerebral palsy. The cerebellum also coordinates the actions for different groups of muscles throughout the body. Ataxic cerebral palsy affects coordination of movement of all four limbs and the trunk.
Symptoms of Ataxic Cerebral Palsy
- Trouble with depth perception
- Trouble with balance
- Coordination issues
- Intention tremors
- Mental retardation
- Loss of vision
- Hearing loss
Causes of Ataxic Cerebral Palsy
Ataxic cerebral palsy is caused by abnormal brain development or by brain damage. Infections in either the mother or the unborn baby and exposure to toxins can cause brain development issues for the fetus. During the first two trimesters, the fetal brain is particularly vulnerable to developing abnormally.
Ataxic cerebral palsy may be caused by lesions in the brain’s white matter. This part of the brain sends signals to the entire nervous system, as well as signals within the brain. As such, damage to the white matter affects the entire body. The brain’s white matter is especially vulnerable during the third trimester.
Bleeding in the unborn baby’s brain can also lead to brain damage. Bleeding in the brain is generally caused by strokes. Malformed or weak brain blood vessels are the cause of most fetal strokes which cause bleeding. Occasionally blood clots form in the placenta, causing what are known as ischemic strokes. Ischemic strokes obstruct blood circulation. In addition, a mother with high blood pressure puts her unborn baby at a greater risk of stroke. High blood pressure during pregnancy is common and should be carefully checked to monitor the health of both mother and child.
Infections are yet another cause of stroke in unborn babies. The womb and the placenta may be infected by maternal viral infections which cause the body to produce more cytokines which in turn produce inflammation. Inflammation is good in that it fights infection, but it may also damage the fetal brain.
Whatever the cause, ataxic cerebral palsy is a tragedy no parent should have to face. Ataxic cerebral palsy caused by something that could have been prevented is even worse. While research continues, ataxic cerebral palsy is still a serious condition which requires a lifetime of physical therapy and experimental treatments.