Ataxia telangiectasia, which is a rare and inherited neuro-degenerative disease, is also known as A-T or Louis Bar Syndrome. Individuals affected with this disease exhibit characteristic symptoms, mainly loss of balance. A dysfunction of the cerebellum causes loss of coordination and involuntary movements. Telangiectasia is due to dilated capillaries which are visible in different parts of the body, especially the eyes. This disease also reduces immunity, increases susceptibility to infections – especially of the ears, sinuses and lungs – and also increases susceptibility to cancer. Affected individuals also display delayed milestones, early ageing, and feeding as well as swallowing problems. The presentation of symptoms usually starts occurring in early childhood. The modern management of this condition usually includes symptomatic treatment, special education and long-term supervision by experts from different health care fields.
Ayurvedic medicines which have a specific action on the brain and the central nervous system are used to treat ataxia. Medicines which have a soothing effect on the capillaries as well as blood vessels are used to treat telangiectasia. Immunomodulation is very important in affected individuals, and medicines which have a known specific action of boosting the immunity are used in high doses in the management of this condition. Medicines also need to be given to improve the metabolism of all the tissues in the body as well as to prevent breakdown of cells. Medicines which are known in Ayurveda as ‘Rasayanas’ are especially important in the management and prevention of delayed milestones and early ageing.
Symptomatic treatment needs to be given for infection of the ears, sinuses and lungs in addition to providing treatment to boost the specific immunity of the respiratory tract.
Herbal medicines useful in the treatment of ataxia include medicines like Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), Haridra (Curcuma longa), Yashtimadhuk (Glycerrhiza glabra), and Bala (Sida cordifolia). Herbomineral medicines and combination-medicines useful in preserving and improving brain function include Bruhat Vat Chintamani, Vasant Kusumakar Ras, Brahmi Vati, Dashmoolarishta, Ashwagandhadi Churna, Pathyadi Qadha, Makardhwaj Vati, and Kamp Vatari Ras.
Medicines which are used to treat telangiectasia include herbs like Manjishtha (Rubia cordifolia), Saariva (Hemidesmus indicus), Guduchi (Tinospora cordifolia), Amalaki (Emblica officinalis) and Usheer (Vetiveria zizanoidis). Medicines used to improve immunity of the affected individuals as well as prevent early ageing include herbs like Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus), Pippali (Piper longum), Chitrak (Plumbago zeylanica), Punarnava (Boerhaavia diffusa) and Kutki (Picrorrhiza kurroa).
Ayurvedic Panchkarma procedure like Shiro-Dhara, Nasya, and full body massage, followed by steam fomentation of medicated decoctions, may also be useful in the treatment of A-T; however, these should be used judiciously and cautiously, so as to provide benefit without aggravating the telangiectasia. Medicines like Nirgundi (Vitex negundo) and Dashmool (Ten herbal roots) are especially useful in these procedures.
The modern management of ataxia telangiectasia has enabled individuals affected with this condition to survive for more than 25 years. The supportive use of Ayurvedic herbal medicines can significantly treat symptoms, treat long-term complications, improve quality of life, and further increase the long-term survival of such patients. Ayurvedic herbal treatment thus has a definite role to play in the management of ataxia telangiectasia.