What is Dysdiadochokinesia In Multiple Sclerosis?

A Feature of Cerebellar Ataxia in MS

A neurologist examines a brain scan.
A neurologist examines a brain scan.. Chris Ryan/Getty Images

Dysdiadochokinesia refers to a person's inability to perform rapid, alternating movements. This is a common sign in multiple sclerosis (MS) that is caused by lesions in the cerebellum.

How Can My Doctor Detect Dysdiadochokinesia?

During a neurological exam, the presence or degree of dysdiadochokinesia can be evaluated in several ways, including:

  • Having the patient alternately flip back and forth the right hand against a stable surface (eg, a table, the patient's own thigh or left hand) as rapidly as possible; repeat for the left hand.
  • Asking the patient to demonstrate the movement of turning a doorknob or screwing in a lightbulb.

A person with dysdiadochokinesia will be unable to perform the above tests in a correct and coordinated fashion. Their movements may be slowed, unusual, or clumsy.

What Other Neurological Problems are seen with Dysdiadochokinesia?

The term dysdiadochokinesia fits within a family of neurological problems called ataxia. Ataxia comes from the Greek word "a taxis" which means "without order." So a person with MS-related ataxia has coordination and balance problems, stemming from a lesion within the cerebellum. Ataxia can affect body movements, like walking and fine motor movements, like writing or eating. It can also cause slowed eye movements, problems with swallowing, and speaking difficulties, like scanned speech -- a form of dysarthria.

Dysmetria is another neurological sign that may appear when MS lesions occur in the cerebellum, similar to dysdiadochokinesia.

Dysmetria refers to a person's inability to judge distance. The nose-to-finger test where the patient is asked to touch their nose, then the doctor’s finger in rapid succession, is used to examine this sign.

How is Dysdiadochokinesia and Other Forms of Ataxia Treated?

Treating dysdiadochokinesia and cerebellar ataxia, in general, is challenging, and there are no specific treatment strategies that are scientifically supported at this time.

That being said, one 2015 study in the Journal of Neurology found that physical therapy and occupational therapy may provide some benefit. Occupational therapy may also improve symptoms of depression, which is common in people who suffer from ataxia.


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DISCLAIMER: The information in this site is for educational purposes only. It should not be used as a substitute for personal care by a licensed physician. Please see your doctor for diagnosis and treatment of any concerning symptoms or medical condition.

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