Parkinson’s Disease and Ataxia


What is Ataxia?

Ataxia is one of the categories of neurodegenerative diseases. Different Ataxia would affect patients’ limb coordination, speech function, eye movement, and muscle control at a different level. There are 50 to 100 types of Ataxia being found. Different types of Ataxia could be inherited or from a genetic mutation. Spinocerebellar Ataxia (SCA) is one of the common types of Ataxia. There are more than 40 subtypes for Spinocerebellar Ataxia alone.

What is Parkinson’s Disease?

Parkinson’s Disease is one of the types of neurodegenerative diseases. It is caused by the loss of neurons in the substantia nigra of the brain. Some of the typical symptoms of Parkinson’s disease are slowed movement, rigid muscles, shaking hands. Parkinson’s disease not only affecting older people. There are 10-20% of Parkinson’s disease patients in Hong Kong are with early-onset Parkinson’s disease which onset before age of 50. There are 5% of Parkinson’s disease cases are inherited.

The similarity between Ataxia and Parkinson’s Disease

Parkinson and Ataxia
Both patients with Parkinson’s disease and Ataxia would have difficulty in muscle control, for example, limb stiffness, unsteady walk, and slurring of speech. Some of the Parkinson’s disease cases do not only experiencing impair of neurons in the substantia nigra, they also affect the cerebellum. Therefore, patients with this type of Parkinson’s disease would have similar early symptoms with Spinocerebellar Ataxia. Since early symptoms of neurodegenerative diseases are similar, we need genetic testing for neurodegenerative diseases to help speed up confirmatory diagnosis.

Diagnosis of Ataxia and Parkinson’s disease

If you are experiencing muscle control difficulties, including shaking and slow movements, please seek medical advice as soon as possible. Early diagnosis allows patients to get effective treatment as soon as possible. Treatments are different for different types of Parkinson’s disease and Ataxia. Therefore, it is necessary to get an accurate diagnosis.

There are nearly a hundred genes are related to different Spinocerebellar Ataxia subtypes. A patient would be suffered from Spinocerebellar Ataxia with just only one gene mutation. Also, there are more than 20 gene mutations found to be related to Parkinson’s disease. Having genetic testing for neurodegenerative diseases can help with an accurate diagnosis.