Tests and diagnosis

By Mayo Clinic Staff

If you have ataxia, your doctor will look for a treatable cause. Besides conducting a physical exam and a neurological exam, including checking your memory and concentration, vision, hearing, balance, coordination and reflexes, your doctor may request laboratory tests, including:

  • Imaging studies. A computerized tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of your brain may help determine potential causes. An MRI can sometimes show shrinkage of the cerebellum and other brain structures in people with ataxia.
  • Lumbar puncture (spinal tap). A needle is inserted into your lower back (lumbar region) between two lumbar bones (vertebrae) to remove a sample of cerebrospinal fluid. The fluid, which surrounds and protects your brain and spinal cord, is sent to a laboratory for testing.
  • Genetic testing. Your doctor may recommend genetic testing to determine whether you or your child has the gene mutation that causes one of the hereditary ataxic conditions. Gene tests are available for many but not all of the hereditary ataxias.
Mar. 29, 2014

You Are ... The Campaign for Mayo Clinic

Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit organization. Make a difference today.