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Alcohol Damage
December 2002

Q. My mother who is 62, was recently diagnosed with Cerebellar Ataxia, and according to an MRI done by a neurologist, was caused by severe alcoholism. She stopped drinking January 15, 2002. Her condition has deteriorated rapidly. She can't walk at all. The tremors affecting her arms, hands, and legs are severe to the point that she finds it difficult to even feed herself.

Her family physician, and the neurologist both say there is no help for her. We're grasping at straws. All she really wants is for the tremors to ease enough so that she can feed herself, and perhaps even allow her to participate in her crafts, which she has always loved doing. What can we do?

A. If the ataxia is due to the alcohol, it may well be that the damage is permanent. Nerve tissue has limited capacity to repair itself, even if the alcohol intake has stopped. The cerebellum area of the brain controls many aspects of movement, balance, and coordination. There is ongoing research in all aspects of brain function, and some studies have shown promise for the following medications: buspirone, L-acetylcarnitine, physostigmine. Ask your neurologist whether any of these might be suitable to try with your mother.



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