Causes of Babinski's Sign

Written by dastan dival
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Causes of Babinski's Sign
As Babinski's sign occurs due to a neurological malfunction, it can be a potentially permanent condition. (BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images)

Babinski's reflex is a specific, involuntary response to a particular stimulation in the body. It causes a person's big toe to move toward the top of the foot while the other toes of the foot fan out after stroking the sole. This sign or reflex is normal in young children, though its presence after the age of two is an indication of damage to the nerve paths connecting the spinal cord and brain. Babinski's sign can be an indication of any number of disorders or illnesses, which cause the reflex to occur.

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Neurological Disorders

Babinski's reflex can be caused by neurological disorders affecting the brain, spinal cord and nervous system. For example, amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease, is a disease of the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord which causes involuntary muscle movement, and is directly linked to people suffering from Babinski's reflex. Other neurological disorders which cause Babinski's sign include generalised tonic-clonic seizure, multiple sclerosis, stroke and syringomyelia.

Inherited Disorders

Inherited disorders are a less common cause of Babinski's sign than other influences. Hypokalemic periodic paralysis, an inherited condition which causes episodes of extreme muscle weakness, can cause Babinski's reflex during a severe bout of paralysis. Another inherited disorder leading to Babinski's sign is Friedrich's ataxia, an inherited disease which affects the muscles and heart.

Illness or Infection

Illness or infection can cause Babinski's reflex due to stress caused to the body. This happens in some severe cases of meningitis, a viral or bacterial infection which causes an inflammation of the membranes that cover the brain and spinal cord. Other illnesses or infections leading to Babinski's reflex include a brain or spinal cord tumour, hepatic encephalopathy, pernicious anaemia, poliomyelitis, rabies and tuberculous arthritis.


When severe injury to the body effects neurological function Babinski's reflex has the potential to occur. Head trauma, which has a high likelihood of damaging the brain, may cause Babinski's reflex. The reflex may also occur as a result of spinal cord injury.

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