How do doctors diagnose ataxia?

Doctors consider many factors when diagnosing ataxia. Your doctor will perform a physical exam and ask about your medical and family history to determine if you have ataxia, and if so, what type it is.

Doctors may also use other tests to find the cause and classify ataxia. These include:

  • MRI: An imaging test called an MRI lets doctors see your brain to help determine the cause of the ataxia.
  • Blood tests: Help determine any underlying causes for the condition, such as a stroke, tumor, or infection.
  • Genetic testing: Can confirm diagnosis of hereditary ataxia.

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 03/16/2018.


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  • International Parkinson and Movement Disorder Society. Ataxia. Accessed 3/27/2018.
  • National Health Service. Ataxia. Accessed 3/27/2018.
  • Brunberg J.A. Ataxia. American Journal of Neuroradiology. August 2008;29(7):1420-1422. Accessed 3/27/2018.
  • National Organization for Rare Disorders. Ataxia Telangiectasia. Accessed 3/27/2018.
  • U.S. National Library of Medicine. Ataxia-telangiectasia. Accessed 3/27/2018.
  • U.S. National Library of Medicine. Episodic ataxia. Accessed 3/27/2018.
  • National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences. Genetic and Rare Diseases Information Center. Spinocerebellar ataxia. Accessed 3/27/2018.

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