September is National Ataxia Month

To the Editor:

Chances are that if you stopped 100 people in the street anywhere in the world and asked the question, what is ataxia? Not one would have the answer.

Ataxia is a disease that has similar symptoms as MS. It is a progressive neurological, degenerative disease with no cure at the present time. There are many different kinds with varying degrees of seriousness. Both sexes are equally vulnerable.

The problem is in the cerebellum, located in the back of the brain. An atrophy of cells takes place in this area, leaving one with difficulty walking, often a speech disturbance, double vision and nystagmus or rapid eye movements. Diagnosis comes from trial and error of many tests. Often it is referred to as an orphan disease being rare (only about 150,000 are affected in the entire United States). Other diseases have millions. Research is slow coming. I have late onset Ataxia which comes later in life (usually in the 5th or 7th decade). I have endured this affliction for 27 years with 14 years in a wheelchair.

Without the constant care of my youngest son Tim, life would be impossible as I have become much more limited in the past year. I have experienced many falls, but thankfully no fractures thus far. Unfortunately my oldest son Craig is in the beginning stages of this malady.

I hope this clarifies this disease because of its rarity. Few understand or are familiar with it.

Virginia Miller

Littleton, N.H.


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