What Is Cerebellar Syndrome?

Erin J. Hill

Cerebellar syndrome generally refers to a condition known as ataxia, or an unstable gait combined with a lack of coordination and other neurological symptoms. It may also refer to various other diseases which affect the cerebellum area of the brain. Ataxia can be caused by various medical conditions and disorders, some of which are reversible and others which are not. In some cases no cause for symptoms is ever found.

Various disease that affect the brain's cerebellum can be labeled cerebellar syndrome.
Various disease that affect the brain's cerebellum can be labeled cerebellar syndrome.

There are various conditions or injuries which can lead to cerebellar syndrome. These can include blunt force trauma to the head, stroke, tumor, multiple sclerosis, toxins, degenerative disorders, and chickenpox. The treatments will depend on the exact cause of symptoms. Occasionally, patients will have period of ataxia that come and go at random, with the causes of these episodes sometimes never discovered. Other times, it may be due to a temporary loss of blood flow to the brain.

A brain tumor can lead to cerebellar syndrome.
A brain tumor can lead to cerebellar syndrome.

Cerebellar syndrome may affect one or both sides of the brain. The cerebellum consists of two small areas near the spinal cord on each side of the brain. Both right and left portions affect and control the coordination on the same side of the body. If only one portion of the cerebellum is affected, as in a brain injury, then only one side of the body may experience symptoms. Ataxia does not generally include conditions which cause full paralysis.

The symptoms of cerebellar syndrome may vary by the individual, but they usually involve a person's gait, fine motor skills, head movement, eye movement, and overall coordination. In some cases, as in with a stroke, one side of the face may become limp or paralyzed. The mouth may be also be affected, and speech may become slurred or otherwise unclear. Someone with cerebellar syndrome may bob his head involuntarily, have tremor or shakiness in the hands or feet, drag his feet as he walks, slump or slouch, and have trouble balancing. Severity varies widely from barely noticeable to a total lack of control of the body.

Most cerebellar syndromes are found through a brain scan. These are typically performed in response to patient symptoms which may be indicated of a neurological disorder. Treatment will vary depending on the exact cause of symptoms. Conditions such as brain tumor or stroke are potentially fatal if not caught and treated early enough.

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