Degenerative cerebellar ataxia refers to damaged brain nerve cells that have degenerated due to a variety of underlying causes, according to Mayo Clinic. Patients with ataxia may display poor body coordination, including difficulty walking and performing tasks that require fine motor skills. Other symptoms are altered speech patterns and shifting eye movements. Causes of ataxia can come from external stimuli, such as vitamin deficiencies or alcohol abuse; catastrophic events, such as strokes; or degenerative conditions, such as multiple sclerosis.
Some substances, such as drugs, alcohol, barbiturates, heavy metals and caustic solvents, can contribute to cellular degeneration in the brain, explains Mayo Clinic. Insufficient intake of vitamin E or vitamin B-12 or conditions that prevent the brain from absorbing these vitamins can also contribute to the condition. Other conditions that contribute to cellullar degeneration include paraneoplastic syndromes, which can result from various cancers; brain tumors; Friedreich’s ataxia, a hereditary condition; and ataxia-telangiectasia, a rare degenerative disease in children.
There is no specific treatment for ataxia, as of 2015, states Mayo Clinic. Health care providers can only treat the underlying conditions when possible and manage the symptoms with adaptive devices, such as canes, modified utensils and communication aids. In some cases, such as viral infections, the body can recover from the degeneration on its own.