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Broadly speaking, the word "ataxia" simply means unsteadiness and clumsiness, and has been given to the condition because those are usually the earliest symptoms. As the disorder progresses, people with ataxia usually lose the ability to walk, and can become totally disabled, having to depend on others for their care. This is because ataxia destroys both nerve and muscle cells. Vision (and in some cases hearing) and speech may also be affected.
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