Tests and diagnosisBy Mayo Clinic staff
Besides conducting a physical exam and a neurological exam, including checking your memory and concentration, vision, hearing, balance, coordination and reflexes, your doctor may request these laboratory tests:
- Blood tests. Certain blood tests can confirm or exclude the suspected condition. A sample of your blood will be drawn from your arm through a needle. You may be required to fast from midnight the night before your appointment until after your blood is drawn. The specific tests will depend on the suspected cause, but most likely will include a complete blood count (CBC), which helps evaluate your overall health and detect a range of disorders, including infection and heavy metal poisoning.
- Urine tests. Examining a sample of your urine under a microscope (urinalysis) may suggest certain systemic abnormalities that can be related to some forms of ataxia. If your doctor suspects Wilson's disease, you may be asked for a 24-hour urine collection to help determine the amount of copper in your system.
- Imaging studies. A computerized tomography (CT) scan or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) of your brain may help determine potential causes.
- Lumbar puncture (spinal tap). A needle is inserted into your lower back (lumbar region) between two lumbar bones (vertebrae) to remove a sample of cerebrospinal fluid. The fluid, which surrounds and protects your brain and spinal cord, is sent to a laboratory for testing.
- Genetic testing. Your doctor may recommend genetic testing to determine whether you or your child has the gene mutation that causes one of the hereditary ataxic conditions. Gene tests are available for many but not all of the hereditary ataxias.
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