Ataxia is a common neurological syndrome resulting from cerebellar, vestibular or sensory disorders. The recognition and characterisation of sensory ataxia remains a challenge. Cerebellar ataxia is the more common and easier to identify; sensory ataxia is often mistaken for cerebellar ataxia, leading to diagnostic errors and delays. A coherent aetiological work-up is only possible if clinicians initially recognise sensory ataxia. We discuss ways to separate sensory from cerebellar ataxia, the causes of sensory ataxia and the clinico-neurophysiological syndromes causing the sensory ataxia syndromes. We summarise a logical tiered approach as a diagnostic algorithm.
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