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Are imbalance and incoordination a symptom of multiple sclerosis (MS)?

Incoordination and imbalance, also known as ataxia, are a common symptom of Multiple Sclerosis and occur, in some degree, in up to 50 % of patients.
Louis Rosner
Neurology

Disturbances of balance and coordination are called ataxia. Balance trouble may be associated with vertigo, a type of dizziness in which there is a feeling of spinning, turning, falling, floating, or some other false sense of motion. The individual may also experience nausea. With vertigo, the loss of balance may occur only briefly with changes of position, such as when first standing up to walk. Balance difficulty may be without vertigo and more constant, causing the person to sway, tilt, weave, veer, or stagger when walking. There are dozens of other causes of this symptom including alcohol or drug abuse, head injury, inner ear infection, physical exhaustion, and high or low blood pressure. Balance disturbance must be considered in the context of whatever other symptoms and signs the patient is showing before it can be labeled a multiple sclerosis (MS) symptom.

Coordination trouble in the hand or foot is somewhat more diagnostic of MS. The patient may report clumsiness, shakiness, slowness, or disturbance in the rhythm of movement in the use of a limb. Intention tremor, another of Charcot's triad, is shaking or wavering when attempting to touch a target. When it is the hand that is involved, fine-skilled actions such as writing and buttoning may be disturbed. When it is the leg that is involved, walking will be disturbed. Conventional tests of coordination, such as walking heel to toe in a straight line, become difficult to perform. Incoordination, of course, may be due to factors other than MS - for example, excessive use of alcohol or coffee, reaction to medication, or just emotional tension or exhaustion.

Multiple Sclerosis

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.