International Ataxia Awareness Day Date in the current year: September 25, 2024

International Ataxia Awareness Day International Ataxia Awareness Day (IAAD) is observed every September 25 to raise awareness of a rare neurological disease among stakeholders and the general public, as well as to support people with ataxia, their families and caretakers.

Ataxia is a neurological impairment that affects motor coordination. People with ataxia can have trouble walking, moving their fingers, hands, arms, or eyes, speaking, eating and swallowing. Other common symptoms of ataxia include tremors and heart problems. The disease can be hereditary or acquired.

Ataxia can occur due to a variety of causes and is subdivided into several types. For example, cerebellar ataxia results from damage to the cerebellum (the part of the brain responsible for motor control), which, in turn, can be caused by direct injury, infection, toxins, autoimmune response, and a variety of diseases. Sensory ataxia results from loss of proprioception (the so-called sixth sense), which can be caused by dysfunction of certain parts of the spinal cord or the brain. Vestibular ataxia results from dysfunction of the vestibular system.

Since ataxia can result from a variety of causes, its treatment depends on the underlying cause. In any case, ataxia cannot be cured; the goal of treatment is to minimize symptoms as much as possible, slow down the progression of the disease (in case of degenerative ataxia), and improve the quality of life.

Common treatment options include medication to address specific symptoms (depression, dizziness, fatigue, lack of balance/coordination, muscle cramps or spasms, stiffness, tremors), physical therapy, occupational therapy, and speech and language therapy.

The history of International Ataxia Awareness Day dates back to 1999, when the National Institutes of Health co-sponsored an international conference dedicated to Friedreich’s ataxia (a genetic form of ataxia caused by degeneration of nervous tissue in the spinal cord). During the conference, participating organizations came up with the idea of establishing an international awareness day to shed light on ataxia.

The inaugural International Ataxia Awareness Day was observed on September 25, 2000. IAAD is organized by the National Ataxia Foundation and promoted by ataxia organizations from Argentina, Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Finland, France, Germany, India, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Mexico, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Pakistan, Poland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Taiwan, the United Kingdom, the United States, and other countries.

You can observe International Ataxia Awareness Day by educating yourself about the disease, attending an IAAD event near you or joining a virtual event, donating to an organization that supports ataxia patients or funds ataxia research, organizing a fundraiser, and spreading the word on social media with the hashtags #InternationalAtaxiaAwarenessDay and #IAAD. If you’re living with ataxia, consider sharing your story (of course, if you’re comfortable doing it) to give hope to newly diagnosed ataxia patients.

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