Medical Q&As

Olivopontocerebellar ataxia - what is it?

Please can you help me? My mother has just been diagnosed with olivopontocerebellar ataxia. Although I work in the care environment I have not heard of this before and I was wondering if you could tell me anything about it?

OPCA (olivopontocerebellar atrophy) is an umbrella term for a group of disorders that result in ataxia or difficulty with coordination. These ataxias arise as a result of progressive neurological deterioration that affects the cerebellum, the pons and the inferior olives, which are two bulges of nerve tissue on either side of the upper portion of the brain stem. The condition is not common and can vary widely in its severity. Most people with OPCA have difficulty with coordination of their legs and arms and may also have slurred speech. Some people may experience muscle spasms, tremors or shakes. Incontinence can also occur and some people may have difficulty with thinking and memory skills. The condition usually begins in midlife and progresses over many years but I stress again that the extent of disability can vary markedly from person to person. There is no specific cure for the condition and treatment is geared towards relieving symptoms that are troublesome such as tremor and ataxia.