Symptoms A-Z

What is Apraxia: Common Symptoms, Causes & Treatments

Understand your apraxia symptoms with Buoy, including 9 causes and treatment options concerning your apraxia.

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Apraxia Symptoms

“It’s like riding a bicycle,” the common phrase goes, “you never forget.” Indeed, your brain is very good at learning tasks that require movement. For instance, after being taught to throw a ball or to use a hammer, those skills are never forgotten (though they may degrade slightly with age). These tasks come easily to us because the brain is capable of subconsciously and nearly instantaneously planning out highly coordinated movements to achieve a goal. It happens in the background. However, for people with apraxia, this is not the reality.

Apraxia differs among individuals

Apraxia is specifically defined as difficulty performing tasks that require movement due to an inability to properly plan those movements [1,2]. When you decide to make a move, whether that be picking up a ball or using a screwdriver, your brain must combine a lot of inputs and turn those into the action. It processes signals from all five senses and the incoming command to perform an action, then creates a plan for the best way to implement that command. It then executes its plan, correcting for mistakes along the way. In apraxia, your brain is unable to formulate that plan effectively. Apraxia can range in its scope — some people are specifically unable to draw shapes whereas others may have apraxia that limits their ability to brush their teeth or to walk. As such, it is important to identify people with apraxia and work with them to make sure they can accomplish their activities of daily living.

Common characteristics of apraxia

Apraxia may be associated with these common symptoms:

  • Cognition: Inability to imagine performing an action
  • Performance: Inability to perform common everyday actions
  • Stroke symptoms: Other stroke or neurodegenerative symptoms such as difficulty speaking, paralysis, loss of sensation, cognitive impairment, vision loss, etc.

Apraxia Causes

Most apraxia is the result of damage to the portions of the brain associated with higher-order motor skills [1]. This is usually due to neurodegenerative diseases like dementia or due to stroke. Other severe disturbances of the body’s normal, healthy state can lead to apraxia-like symptoms as brain function can be significantly worse when a person is severely ill.

Vascular (Stroke)

When a blood vessel in the brain is blocked off by a clot or when a blood vessel bleeds into the brain, the brain does not receive enough oxygen. The brain needs oxygen and promptly dies within a few minutes of being cut off. If a stroke occurs in the part of the brain controlling motor skills or the use of tools, this can lead to apraxia.

Neurologic

Neurologic diseases that cause degeneration of the brain, such as dementia, can cause a variety of issues such as changes in personality, changes in cognition, inability to speak, or apraxia.

Psychiatric

Rarely, apraxia may be a side effect of severe psychiatric disorder, called a conversion disorder [3].

Metabolic

Metabolic imbalances in the body can impact the brain, leading to apraxia, such as:

  • Electrolyte imbalance: Severe imbalance of electrolytes or blood sugar can lead to cognitive deficits like apraxia.
  • Severe infection of trauma: Severe disturbances of your body’s health can lead to various cognitive deficits such as apraxia.

9 Possible Apraxia Conditions

The list below shows results from the use of our quiz by Buoy users who experienced apraxia. This list does not constitute medical advice and may not accurately represent what you have.

Traumatic brain injury

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) happens when a bump, blow, jolt, or other head injury causes damage to the brain.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: new headache, irritability, clear runny nose, vision changes, general numbness

Symptoms that always occur with traumatic brain injury: head injury

Urgency: Emergency medical service

Stroke or tia (transient ischemic attack)

Transient ischemic attack, or TIA, is sometimes called a "mini stroke" or a "warning stroke." Any stroke means that blood flow somewhere in the brain has been blocked by a clot.

Risk factors include smoking, obesity, and cardiovascular disease, though anyone can experience a TIA.

Symptoms are "transient," meaning they come and go within minutes because the clot dissolves or moves on its own. Stroke symptoms include weakness, numbness, and paralysis on one side of the face and/or body; slurred speech; abnormal vision; and sudden, severe headache.

A TIA does not cause permanent damage because it is over quickly. However, the patient must get treatment because a TIA is a warning that a more damaging stroke is likely to occur. Take the patient to the emergency room or call 9-1-1.

Diagnosis is made through patient history; physical examination; CT scan or MRI; and electrocardiogram.

Treatment includes anticoagulant medication to prevent further clots. Surgery to clear some of the arteries may also be recommended.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: dizziness, leg numbness, arm numbness, new headache, stiff neck

Symptoms that never occur with stroke or tia (transient ischemic attack): bilateral weakness

Urgency: Emergency medical service

Alzheimer's disease

Alzheimer's disease is a progressive neurological disorder that slowly destroys memory and the ability to think clearly. As symptoms worsen, patients are often unable to perform basic tasks.

Rarity: Common

Top Symptoms: trouble sleeping, forgetfulness, anxiety, aggression or confusion, anxiety, irritability, depressed mood

Symptoms that always occur with alzheimer's disease: forgetfulness, anxiety, aggression or confusion

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Wernicke-korsakoff syndrome

Wernicke-Korsakoff Syndrome, or WKS, is a neurologic disorder. The names represent the acute stage of the illness, called Wernicke's Encephalopathy, and the chronic stage, called Korsakoff Syndrome.

WKS is caused by a deficiency of thiamine, or vitamin B1. It is most often seen in alcoholics; anyone who has had a poor diet, eating disorder, or weight-loss surgery; and those with serious illness such as cancer or AIDS.

Acute symptoms are primarily physical and include abnormal, uncoordinated walking and standing; flickering eye movements called nystagmus; and damage to the heart and nervous system. There may also be profound drowsiness that can lead to coma.

Chronic symptoms are primarily mental and include short-term memory loss and dementia-like behavior.

The acute stages of WKS can be a life-threatening medical emergency. Take the patient to the emergency room or call 9-1-1.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination and blood tests.

Treatment involves simply adding thiamine supplements to the diet, as well as treating any remaining symptoms to aid in recovery.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: nausea or vomiting, leg numbness, feeling confused and not making sense while talking, amnesia, jerky, unsteady, or uncoordinated walk

Urgency: Hospital emergency room

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Bacterial meningitis

Meningitis describes inflammation of the meninges, the layers of membranes that surround the brain and spinal cord. Viruses, fungi, bacteria, and other rare causes can lead to meningitis. Streptococcus, Neisseria, Listeria, and Haemophilus are common bacterial causes of mening...

Brain tumor or mass

In medical terms, "mass" and "tumor" mean the same thing: the unexplained, out-of-place growth of tissue anywhere in the body, including the brain.

The cause of any sort of brain tumor is unknown. Some originate in the brain, while others spread from cancers growing in other parts of the body.

Symptoms may include increasing headaches; nausea and vomiting; blurred or double vision; loss of sensation in an arm or leg; loss of balance; confusion; speech difficulties; or seizures.

If symptoms persist, it is important to see a medical provider so that any treatment can begin as soon as possible.

Diagnosis is made through neurological examination, CT scan, and/or MRI.

If the mass or tumor is found to be benign, that means it is not cancer and not harmful. It may or may not be treated.

If it is malignant, that means it is cancer and must be treated. This will involve some combination of surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy, followed by specialized therapy to help with recovery.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: fatigue, headache, nausea, loss of appetite, irritability

Symptoms that always occur with brain tumor or mass: focal neurological symptoms

Urgency: In-person visit

Subdural hematoma

A subdural hematoma (SDH) is a clot or a pool of blood between the surface of the brain and the dura mater, the brain’s tough outer covering. This is typically due to the stretching and tearing of veins on the brain’s surface. These veins rupture when a head injury suddenly jolts or shakes the brain.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: headache, new headache, being severely ill, vision changes, lightheadedness

Symptoms that always occur with subdural hematoma: head injury, being severely ill

Urgency: Hospital emergency room

Cerebral venous thrombosis

Cerebral venous thrombosis (CVT,) or cerebral venous sinus thrombosis (CVST) refers to a blood clot in certain veins of the brain.

There are two layers of material that form the lining between the skull and the brain. The occasional open spaces, or sinuses, between these two layers have veins running through them to drain blood and spinal fluid from the brain.

Cerebral venous thrombosis means that a blood clot (thrombosis) has formed somewhere within the veins of these sinuses.

This condition is caused by a congenital malformation in the brain; pregnancy; use of oral contraceptives; meningitis; use of steroids; and trauma to the head.

Symptoms include headache; nausea and vomiting; mental confusion; changes in vision; difficulty walking, moving or speaking; seizures; and coma. CVT is a life-threatening medical emergency. Take the patient to the emergency room or call 9-1-1.

Diagnosis is made through physical examination; CT scan or MRI; blood tests; and sometimes a lumbar puncture (spinal tap.)

Treatment includes anticoagulant medication to destroy the clot, followed by any rehabilitation that may be needed.

Rarity: Ultra rare

Top Symptoms: fatigue, headache, nausea or vomiting, loss of appetite, being severely ill

Symptoms that always occur with cerebral venous thrombosis: being severely ill

Urgency: Emergency medical service

Ataxia-telangiectasia (louis-bar syndrome)

Ataxia-Telangiectasia is a rare, brain degenerative, inherited disease causing disability. Ataxia refers to poor coordination and telangiectasia to small dilated blood vessels.

Rarity: Rare

Top Symptoms: difficulty walking, difficulty with coordination, numbness or tingling sensations in skin, trouble swallowing, jerky, unsteady, or uncoordinated walk

Symptoms that always occur with ataxia-telangiectasia (louis-bar syndrome): difficulty with coordination

Urgency: Primary care doctor

Apraxia Treatments and Relief

Apraxia is almost exclusively a symptom of severe brain dysfunction — as the means by which we use tools and manipulate objects are higher-order brain processes. As such, there is very little you can do at home to treat apraxia. The best you can do is adjust the home environment to be most conducive to the affected person’s abilities.

At-home treatment

The primary at-home treatment is home modification. With the assistance of a rehabilitation professional, you should attempt to modify the home environment to be as conducive to everyday living as possible. This can help cope with the disabling nature of apraxia.

When to see a doctor

It is likely that you will have to consult a medical professional or team to adjust to living with apraxia [4].

  • Occupational and physical therapy: If the damage to the brain is irreversible, physical and occupational therapy should be obtained to attempt to regain function and to retrain the body to operate with its disability [5].
  • Medications or surgery: Acute stroke can be treated with good outcomes if patients are brought to the hospital and treated with medication or surgery immediately after the onset of symptoms.

When it is an emergency

The symptoms below necessitate medical attention:

  • Sudden-onset apraxia
  • Stroke-like symptoms
  • Progressively worsening neurologic disability

Questions Your Doctor May Ask About Apraxia

To diagnose this condition, your doctor would likely ask the following questions:

  • Are you experiencing a headache?
  • Are you feeling irritable (easily made upset)?
  • Are you feeling less alert than normal?
  • Do you currently smoke?

The above questions are also covered by our A.I. Health Assistant.

If you've answered yes to one or more of these questions

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Apraxia Symptom Checker Statistics

People who have experienced apraxia have also experienced:

  • 7% Fatigue
  • 5% Loss Of Interest In Things That Bring You Joy
  • 5% Difficulty Concentrating

People who have experienced apraxia were most often matched with:

  • 41% Traumatic Brain Injury
  • 41% Stroke Or Tia (Transient Ischemic Attack)
  • 17% Alzheimer'S Disease

People who have experienced apraxia had symptoms persist for:

  • 38% Over a month
  • 27% Less than a day
  • 21% Less than a week

Source: Aggregated and anonymized results from visits to the Buoy AI health assistant (check it out by clicking on “Take Quiz”).

Apraxia Symptom Checker

Take a quiz to find out what might be causing your apraxia

References

  1. Apraxia. National Organization for Rare Disorders. Published 2003. NORD Link
  2. Shelat AM. Apraxia. U.S. National Library of Medicine: MedlinePlus. Updated April 30, 2018. MedlinePlus Link
  3. Singh TD, Duffy JR, Strand EA, Machulda MM, Whitwell JL, Josephs KA. Neuropsychiatric symptoms in primary progressive aphasia and apraxia of speech. Dementia and Geriatric Cognitive Disorders. 2015;39(0):228-238. NCBI Link
  4. West C, Bowen A, Hesketh A, Vail A. Interventions for motor apraxia following stroke. Cochrane. Published January 23, 2008. Cochrane Link
  5. Acquired apraxia of speech. American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. ASHA Link

Disclaimer: The article does not replace an evaluation by a physician. Information on this page is provided as an information resource only, and is not to be used or relied on for any diagnostic or treatment purposes.