Wearing a face mask has become commonplace in public spaces since the COVID-19 pandemic. We have encountered several patients with sensory ataxia who have reported worsening of their gait when wearing a face mask. Here, we illustrate the problem in a patient with spinocerebellar ataxia type 2.
A 52-year-old man with genetically confirmed spinocerebellar ataxia type 2 had both cerebellar dysfunction and peripheral neuropathy (bilaterally absent vibration sense to the knees). He spontaneously reported a worsening gait when walking while wearing a face mask, resulting in near falls. Without a face mask, his gait was ataxic with a widened base of support and irregular step size and step width (see video 1). We observed his gait worsen (with increased step placement variability and staggering) when he wore a face mask, with a fall in gait speed from 0.9 m/s to 0.7 m/s.
Patients with sensory gait ataxia…