What causes clumsiness? 12 possible conditions

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What Is Clumsiness?

Clumsiness is indicative of motor coordination problems with daily activities.

Alternative Names

Awkward, awkwardness, can not control movements, clumsiness syndrome, clumsy.


Clumsiness is a common problem in otherwise healthy children with normal intelligence. Motor coordination problems may affect the ability to perform age-appropriate activities, such as dressing and running. Clumsy children may be at risk for academic and social problems. Low self-esteem may be experienced by the child who has difficulties performing in sports and social situations. Clumsy children may appear restless due to difficulties balancing and stabilizing their bodies. Clumsy children may present with poor muscle tone and posture. Working with school personnel and psychotherapists to identify and treat stress, anxiety and victimization due to awkwardness will help improve developmental outcomes long term.

In adults, clumsiness is most often acquired, and may reflect an underlying medical problem. Difficulty with vision or the middle ear many manifest itself as clumsiness, as may the onset of neurological diseases or other medical problems with neurological components.

Associated Diagnoses

  • Brain tumor
  • Autism
  • Alcohol withdrawal delirium
  • Hypothermia
  • Epilepsy
  • Guillain-Barre syndrome
  • Head injury
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Alcoholism
  • Brain cancer
  • Developmental coordination disorder
  • Encephalitis
  • Reye’s syndrome
  • Schizophrenia
  • Seizures
  • Marijuana dependence
  • Stroke
  • Opioid dependence
  • Side effects of medications
  • Reye’s syndrome
  • Wernicke Korsakoff syndrome
  • Huntington’s chorea
  • Restless legs syndrome

Diagnosis and Treatment

A thorough evaluation by a physician is required for clumsiness and referral to an occupational therapist and a multidisciplinary pediatric team. Clumsiness that is a symptom or complication of other medical disorders may be treated with occupational and physical therapy. The treatment will depend on the diagnosis.

Call your provider:

Whenever someone is manifesting signs of clumsiness that are not attributed to a known cause or easily explained.

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See a list of possible causes in order from the most common to the least.



Alcoholism is also known as alcohol dependence. It occurs when you drink so much over time that your body becomes dependent on or addicted to alcohol. When this happens, alcohol use becomes the most important thing i...

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Opioids and related disorders

Opioids are a class of drugs that include both natural and synthetic substances. The natural opioids (referred to as opiates) include opium and morphine.

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Marijuana Dependence

Marijuana is the most commonly used illicit drug in the United States. Uncontrollable or overly frequent marijuana consumption may indicate abuse or addiction.

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Multiple Sclerosis Overview

Multiple sclerosis (MS) is a chronic autoimmune disease that affects the central nervous system. MS can cause varying symptoms that appear with a wide range of severity, from mild discomfort to complete disability.

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Head Injury

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

A head injury could be an injury to the brain, skull, or scalp. It can vary in severity depending on the cause. In some cases face swelling can be a sign of a head injury.

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Guillain-Barre Syndrome

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Guillain-Barre syndrome is a rare but serious autoimmune disorder in which the immune system attacks healthy nerve cells of the peripheral nervous system. This leads to weakness, numbness, and tingling, and ca...

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Mini Stroke (Transient Ischemic Attack)

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

During a transient ischemic attack (TIA, mini stroke) blood stops flowing to the brain for a short period of time. TIA doesn't kill brain cells like a stroke does. TIA causes symptoms that mimic those of a stroke.

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Stroke Overview

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

A stroke (a "brain attack") is a medical emergency in which part of the brain is deprived of oxygen. This occurs when an artery that supplies oxygenated blood to the brain becomes damaged and brain cells begin to die.

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Alcohol Withdrawal Delirium

This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Alcohol withdrawal delirium (AWD) is the most serious form of alcohol withdrawal. It causes sudden and severe problems in your brain and nervous system. Approximately five percent of hospital patients being treated fo...

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This condition is considered a medical emergency. Urgent care may be required.

Encephalitis is inflammation of the brain tissue usually caused by viral infection. Mild symptoms include fever, headache, and vomiting. Seizure, unconsciousness, and high fever are severe signs.

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Reye's Syndrome

Reye's syndrome is a rare but serious condition that strikes without warning. It most often affects children ages 4 to 12 whoare recovering from a viral infection.The National Reye's Syndrome Foundation (NRSF) note...

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Adult Brain Tumor

A brain tumor is a collection of abnormal cells in the brain. Brain tumors can be either malignant (cancerous) or benign (unlikely to spread). However, there is a limited amount of space in the skull. Therefore, an...

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This feature is for informational purposes only and should not be used to diagnose.
Please consult a healthcare professional if you have health concerns.
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