Alcohol abuse changes your life in many ways, including the way your brain controls your body. One of the health problems caused by prolonged alcohol abuse is ataxia. Ataxia occurs when your brain loses control over the muscles and nerves of your body that coordinate movements. If your doctor diagnoses you with ataxia, he or she may use neurological treatment to help you get well. Here's how alcohol causes ataxia, as well as what you should know about your neurological evaluation and treatment.
How Does Alcohol Abuse Cause Ataxia?
If you drink too much alcohol during special occasions, holidays or social engagements, you may experience a number of temporary symptoms, such as slurring your speech or falling down when you stand up. The symptoms usually go away once you sober up or don't drink again. However, if you abuse alcohol every day and develop ataxia, you don't have to be drunk to fall down or slur your speech. The symptoms occur even when you're sober.
The ingredients in alcohol break down or change the brain's chemicals until they can't control the muscle and nerve movements in various parts of your body. Your hands, feet and other limbs tremble or shake uncontrollably because the muscle tissues in them can't flex or bend properly.
The muscles that control your jawbones, tongue and throat can't control how you chew food, swallow food or sound out words. The muscles around your eyes can't control your blinking reflexes. Instead of blink naturally, you blink repeatedly, very slowly or not at all.
Your primary doctor uses your symptoms to evaluate your condition. Since ataxia affects the brain, your primary doctor refers you to a neurologist to confirm and treat your condition.
What Is a Neurologist and Neurological Treatment?
A neurologist is the doctor treating your ataxia. He or she treats conditions that affect your nervous system as well as the tissues that rely on it to function correctly. The doctor may base your neurological treatment on several things, including the:
- Longevity of your alcohol abuse
- Severity of your ataxia
- Severity of other alcohol-related health problems, such as liver cancer or kidney cancer
In addition, your neurologist may test the reflexes of your muscles to see how fast or slow they react to stimuli. Poor muscle reflexes are a common sign of ataxia.
The neurologist may take scans of your brain as well. The scans may point out the areas of your brain that have reduced chemical production.
Once the neurologist completes his or her evaluations and tests, the doctor may treat you with medications that increase your brain's chemical production. Physical therapy sessions and adaptive hand, foot and face equipment are also prescribed to help you eat, speak and walk better.
If you have other alcohol-related problems, your doctor will make sure that you receive the proper care. You'll also need to seek treatment for your alcohol abuse to ensure that your treatments improve your health.
If you have other questions about ataxia and alcohol abuse, consult with a specialist in neurological services and treatment or primary doctor for more information.