Communion Of Dreams

Machado-Joseph Disease: One for the road.

This might not last, but for the last week or so I’ve noticed a persistent minor problem with my balance. Whereas most of the other symptoms of MJD so far have tended to be episodic, lasting for a few hours at a time, then a break of a day or two, the balance issue seems to be constantly there to one degree or another. I realized this was the case when I started taking meclizine regularly before my morning walks, then once or twice more during the day.

This is a classic symptom of MJD, to the point where it is even mentioned in the introductory paragraph on Wikipedia (bolding mine):

The symptoms are caused by a genetic mutation that results in an expansion of abnormal “CAG” trinucleotide repeats in the ATXN3 gene[1] that results in an abnormal form of the protein ataxin which causes degeneration of cells in the hindbrain.[3] Some symptoms, such as clumsiness and rigidity, make MJD commonly mistaken for drunkenness or Parkinson’s disease.

Now, I don’t want to overstate this. So far, this has just been a minor thing, and I haven’t had any trouble in correcting for it. In fact, as I told a friend, it mostly just feels like I’ve* had one drink too many in an evening with friends — the sort of thing where you get up from your chair to hit the bathroom, and realize that you need to be a little careful. It isn’t the “room spinning” or “falling down drunk” feeling of being four or five drinks over your tolerance. I don’t feel dizzy so much as just slightly off kilter. But it is strange having this feeling in the morning or the middle of the day when I haven’t had anything to drink. It’s also strange not to have it go away after a while.

Jim Downey

*OK, YMMV: I’m ~250 pounds with a fairly high tolerance for alcohol and most other drugs. “One drink too many” for me might be more like half a drink for others. But you get the idea.

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