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What is a gait disorder?

My son just turned three and he has a lot of trouble walking and moving around smoothly. The pediatrician says she wants to evaluate him for a 'gait disorder'. What does this mean? Will it be a lifelong problem if he has this disorder? What kind of evaluation will she need to diagnose it?
This is an example of how we as physicians need to improve our communication with our patients especially with respect to using terminology that is not used in everyday language. In this case, a gait disorder is a disorder that simply means trouble walking normally. A gait disorder does not specify anything in particular (for example people that are intoxicated with alcohol have a temporary gait disorder) and there are many different conditions and diseases that can result in a gait disorder. There are many disorders that affect the gait. Any disorder that affects the brain, nerves, joints, or muscles can effect the way we walk. For example cerebral palsy and muscular dystrophy both cause trouble walking because they affect either the brain or muscular systems. Children of that age occasionally will have hip problems that can cause problems walking. Many of these problems are correctable. I suggest that you schedule an appointment with the physician who is evaluating your son's walking. Discuss the all the possible syndromes that your doctor is going to consider so that there are no surprises when the diagnostic tests come back. Hopefully, he or she will find something that is either reversible, or temporary. Good luck.
This answer is for general informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.
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