Alcohol induced ataxia

For years my doctor(s) told me to stop drinking (as they do), for health reasons: liver etc. About 2 years ago I noticed my co-ordination/balance getting gradually worse until it got that bad that I questioned my doctor. His first diagonsis was that I had had a ‘mini-stroke’.
After referring me to a neurologist he explained to me about the ataxia/alcohol connection. I thought “I’ll be okay, it’ll go away.” It didn’t of course.
I know it’s my own fault as it was self inflicted but I was wondering if any one else has a similar story and how they’re going? Cheers, Rik.

Hi Rik, welcome :slightly_smiling_face: I don’t have your type of ataxia, but I do know that it’s fairly common. Please don’t consider this as being ‘self-afflicted’…You weren’t to know this could happen, and there are several triggers for ataxia anyway…
You can do a group search to find links to other discussions relating to alcohol…Look for the magnifying glass, top right of this page…
Did you know that you may be suffering from some deficiencies re your diagnosis…
Alcohol consumption can cause deficiencies in vitamin A, C, D, E, K, and B vitamins .4 Oct 2020
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Hi Rik. The Doc would think the symptoms are similar to a mini-stroke, unless he knows about the ataxia. In terms of ataxia and alcohol, there is an obvious connection. My ataxia gets severely worse during and after alcohol intake, so I try to limit the amount of Alcohol I intake in a sitting. There is also probably long term affects of alcohol on ataxia, but the way I look at it is, if you work hard at exercising, then you deserve to let your hair down. But always be safe! Injuries are not fun.
Hope that helps, Cheers, James.

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@Rik Definitely understand. I started drinking very young and every Neurologist I have seen have asked about my drinking history. I became dependent on a rollator walker at 47. My cerebellum has been badly damaged. Yea I kick myself and do the " if I could go back and change"… It’s pointless. You are where you are. Do what you can to improve fitness and diet. Be thankful for your family and friends. Find support in your community. This is what I do.

Rik -I don’t know about your drinking history but you may also have an alcohol disease in addition to Ataxia. If your doctor told you to stop drinking and you didn’t your doctor didn’t recognize it either—since he should have insisted on treated this long before it affected your cerebellum. Denial is the main symptom of alcoholism—by patients and doctors, too. Neither disease is your fault. My mother had chronic alcoholism from the time I was born. At 50 they diagnosed her with Ataxia from alcohol. I later learned when I turned 50 that her alcoholism didn’t cause her Ataxia since I too had inherited it and didn’t drink. She also had genetic Ataxia, SCA. Get a better doctor and learn what you can about both diseases. Neither is your fault.

Thank You very much for that Beryl :grin:

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Thanks for that James. I haven’t had a drink since then although the damage had already been done anyway. I stupidly thought ‘I’ll see how far I can push it.’ The neurologist made the conxsion with the alcohol. I do need tto exercise more. Cheers. :grinning:

Very similar to my own story. I stopped drinking (after the damage was done), and at least it hasn’t gotten worse. I like to think that the brain has no ‘rules’ and that like a tree branch, once cut, new shoots will grow. Why not? How many times have you heard of people supposed to never walk again then doing exactly that? Maybe you don’t hear of people getting better because of no specific studies done into it or because of lack of medicines to help? Like you say, stay positive. Cheers, RIK.

Thanks for that Mary, Cheers. :smiley:

Hi Rik
If the ataxia is caused by alcohol it shows on an EMG (neurological test of the legs). Did you have one? Mine showed negative. What I did find out recently is that ataxia can also be caused by a tetanus shot, due to a preservative in the vaccine called Thimerosal (=mercury). It’s what I have been looking for ever since 2004. Asking several docters at the time, they just said ‘no, this tetanus shot of yours has nothing to do with your ataxia’. Wiped from the table, just like that. My ataxia being very mild at the time, I just believed what doc says. If I had known then what was awaiting in the years to come, I would have taken this further via virologists, cell biologists etc.

So anyone out there who also has ideopathic late onset cerebellar ataxia, i.e. not knowing where it comes from AND who had a tetanus shot shortly before the first symptoms, ‘seems like there’s something wrong with my legs’, anyone who recognizes this…please let me hear.

Read section 11.1.3 after you click on Health Hazards under Chemical Safety in this link:

Thanks for that Elle. No, I didn’t have a EMG on my legs that I remember.

What is thimerosal?

Thimerosal is a vaccine additive, added to some vaccines to prevent germs (like bacteria and fungi) from growing in them. If germs grow in vaccines, they can cause illness—or even death.

Why do some people worry about thimerosal in vaccines?

You may have heard that thimerosal has mercury in it. Not all types of mercury are the same. Some types of mercury, like mercury in some kinds of fish, stay in the human body and can make people sick. Thimerosal is a different kind of mercury. It doesn’t stay in the body, and is unlikely to make us sick.

Is thimerosal safe?

Yes. Thimerosal has been used safely in vaccines for a long time (since the 1930s).

Scientists have been studying the use of thimerosal in vaccines for many years. They haven’t found any evidence that thimerosal causes harm.

Alcohol and drug intoxication; heavy metal poisoning, such as from lead or mercury; and solvent poisoning, such as from paint thinner, also can cause ataxia.
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Hey Rik
My name is Merl I’m a member of the Modsupport Team here on Ben’s Friends.
Many, many years ago I ran an accommodations program for a youth organisation. One of my tenants was an aboriginal man. Nice bloke. Liked a drink or two, lost count how many times the coppers brought him home. He started getting a bit wobbly, so we got him a walking stick. He was okay with the stick for about a year. His stumbles became worse, he actually fell and took all of the skin off the right side of his face. We went to the town dr, who had already decided, he was the town drunk and he’s just drunk again, but this was more than just drunk. The dr arranged for him to get forearm crutches.

By around this time I’d officially become his carer and I wanted some answers. This seemed to me that it was progressing, what was going on? I arrange for a Dr in the city to see him, he was then referred onto a neurologist and was sent for scans. He was diagnosed with Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome, more commonly known as Korsakoff syndrome or a form of alcohol dementia.

For many people with dementia, they loose their cognition, their understanding, then those loose their physical ability. But for this man he started loosing his body/bodily functions, but his mind was still there. Unlike most dementia patients, he knew what was happening. After around 4 years he became dual incontinent, something he was EXTREMELY embarrassed about, and was pretty much wheelchair bound. The local aboriginal health service had decided that a nursing facility would be more appropriate and as I was his sole carer I had to admit that he needed fulltime care now.

Look, I’m the very last person whose going to tell you ‘Just stop drinking’, I’ve had my own battles with the grog and drugs and that ‘Just stop…’ attitude doesn’t help. It took me years to get to a point of ‘Rock Bottom’ before I pulled myself out of it. And it took a change of environment for me (a change of country from NZ to Oz) to make that change. Maybe a change of environment could help…
I must also say here that Korsakoff syndrome can become progressive and can progress rather rapidly. It’s progression can be slowed if appropriate action is taken.

Merl from the Modsupport Team

Hi Rik, ask your neurologist then for an EMG, just to be sure. With an EMG they measure the electric activity of the muscles and the electric activity of the nerve which controls the muscles. My results were negative i.e. ataxia not caused by alcohol.

Hi Beryl, yes Thimerosal is a preservative in some vaccines. All I am saying is that in the earlier link I enclosed that you will find the very word ‘ataxia’ among other things under health hazards. And that my first ataxia symptoms started shortly after a tetanus vaccination. And would like to know if there are anymore people out there with the same experience.

Ellie, I found this which backs up your post…Although ‘acute’ isn’t the same as ‘late onset’.

Cases of acute cerebellar ataxia have been reported as a consequence of several viral and bacterial infections as well as immunizing agents, such as varicella, influenza, hepatitis B, and diphtheria-pertussis-tetanus vaccines. › …PDF

HI Rik, Please do not blam having a drink for Ataxia.Alcohol certainly does not help balance problems and I strongly recommend you try and greatly reduce having a drink or cut it out totally if you can as it will help your balance.I have had ataxia type 6 since 2010 and now very occasionally have a glass of wine with a meal out but try not to drink at home at all ,water is good.Keep safe and be positive