You're likely to start by seeing your family doctor or a general practitioner. However, in some cases when you call to set up an appointment, you may be referred immediately to a neurologist.
Because there may be a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to be well prepared for your appointment. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment, and what to expect from your doctor.
What you can do
- Be aware of any pre-appointment restrictions. At the time you make the appointment, ask if there's anything you need to do in advance, such as restrict your diet.
- Write down any symptoms you're experiencing, including any that may seem unrelated to the reason for which you scheduled the appointment.
- Write down key personal information, including any major stresses or recent life changes.
- Make a list of all medications, as well as any vitamins or supplements you're taking.
- Take a family member or friend along, if possible. Sometimes it can be difficult to soak up all the information provided to you during an appointment. Someone who accompanies you may remember something that you missed or forgot.
- Write down questions to ask your doctor.
Preparing a list of questions will help you make the most of your time with your doctor. For ataxia, some basic questions to ask your doctor include:
- What is likely causing my symptoms or condition?
- Other than the most likely cause, what are other possible causes for my symptoms or condition?
- What kinds of tests do I need?
- Is my condition likely temporary or chronic?
- What is the best course of action?
- Are there any devices that can help me with coordination?
- What are the alternatives to the primary approach you're suggesting?
- I have other health conditions. How can I best manage them together?
- Are there any restrictions I need to follow?
- Should I see a specialist?
- Is there a generic alternative to the medicine you're prescribing?
- Are there any brochures or other printed material that I can take home with me? What websites do you recommend?
- Can I participate in any research studies related to ataxia?
Don't hesitate to ask any other questions you have.
What to expect from your doctor
Your doctor is likely to ask you a number of questions, such as:
- When did you begin experiencing symptoms?
- Have your symptoms been continuous or occasional?
- How severe are your symptoms?
- What, if anything, seems to improve your symptoms?
- What, if anything, seems to worsen your symptoms?
- Do you have any family members who have had these types of symptoms?
- Do you use alcohol or drugs?
- Have you been exposed to any toxins?
- Have you had any recent viruses?
What you can do in the meantime
Don't drink alcohol or take recreational drugs, which can make your ataxia worse.
Mar. 01, 2011
- NINDS ataxias and cerebellar or spinocerebellar degeneration information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/ataxia/ataxia.htm. Accessed Dec. 9, 2010.
- Frequently asked questions about Fredreich's ataxia (FRDA). National Ataxia Foundation. http://www.ataxia.org/resources/publications.aspx. Accessed Dec.30, 2010.
- Paulson HL. The spinocerebellar ataxias. Journal of Neuro-Opthalmology. 2009;29:227.
- Frequently asked questions about episodic ataxia. National Ataxia Foundation. http://www.ataxia.org/resources/publications.aspx. Accessed Dec. 9, 2010.
- Klockgether T. Sporadic ataxia with adult onset: Classification and diagnostic criteria. The Lancet Neurology. 2010;9:94.
- Ataxia-Telangiectasia (A-T). National Ataxia Foundation. http://www.ataxia.org/resources/publications.aspx. Accessed Dec. 9, 2010.
- Ataxia telangiectasia: Fact sheet. National Cancer Institute. http://www.cancer.gov/cancertopics/factsheet/ataxiaqa. Accessed Dec. 9, 2010.
- Opal P, et al. Overview of the hereditary ataxias. http://www.uptodate.com/home/index.html. Accessed Nov. 22, 2010.