SOME RARE DISEASES
Wilson’s Disease; FABRY’S DISEASE; CEREBROTENDINOUS XANTHOMATOSIS CTX; ADULT STILLS DISEASE; CONN SYNDROME AND CUSHING SYNDROME; Addison’s Disease
Wilson disease causes the body to retain copper. The liver of a person who has Wilson disease does not release copper into bile as it should. Bile is a liquid produced by the liver that helps with digestion. As the intestines absorb copper from food, the copper builds up in the liver and injures liver tissue. Eventually, the damage causes the liver to release the copper directly into the bloodstream, which carries the copper throughout the body. The copper buildup leads to damage in the kidneys, brain, and eyes. If not treated, Wilson disease can cause severe brain damage, liver failure, and death.
Wilson disease is hereditary. Symptoms usually appear between the ages of 6 and 20 years, but can begin as late as age 40. The most characteristic sign is the Kayser-Fleischer ring—a rusty brown ring around the cornea of the eye that can be seen only through an eye exam. Other signs depend on whether the damage occurs in the liver, blood, central nervous system, urinary system, or musculoskeletal system. Many signs can be detected only by a doctor, like swelling of the liver and spleen; fluid buildup in the lining of the abdomen; anemia; low platelet and white blood cell count in the blood; high levels of amino acids, protein, uric acid, and carbohydrates in urine; and softening of the bones. Some symptoms are more obvious, like jaundice, which appears as yellowing of the eyes and skin; vomiting blood; speech and language problems; tremors in the arms and hands; and rigid muscles.
Wilson disease is diagnosed through tests that measure the amount of copper in the blood, urine, and liver. An eye exam would detect the Kayser-Fleischer ring.
The disease is treated with lifelong use of D-penicillamine or trientine hydrochloride, drugs that help remove copper from tissue, or zinc acetate, which stops the intestines from absorbing copper and promotes copper excretion. Patients will also need to take vitamin B6 and follow a low-copper diet, which means avoiding mushrooms, nuts, chocolate, dried fruit, liver, and shellfish.
What is Fabry Disease?
Fabry disease is caused by the lack of or faulty enzyme needed to metabolize lipids, fat-like substances that include oils, waxes, and fatty acids. The enzyme is known as ceramide trihexosidase, also called alpha-galactosidase-A. A mutation in the gene that controls this enzyme causes insufficient breakdown of lipids, which build up to harmful levels in the eyes, kidneys, autonomic nervous system, and cardiovascular system. Since the gene that is altered is carried on a mother’s X chromosome, her sons have a 50 percent chance of inheriting the disorder and her daughters have a 50 percent chance of being a carrier. Some women who carry the genetic mutation may have symptoms of the disease. Symptoms usually begin during childhood or adolescence and include burning sensations in the hands that gets worse with exercise and hot weather and small, raised reddish-purple blemishes on the skin. Some boys will also have eye manifestations, especially cloudiness of the cornea. Lipid storage may lead to impaired arterial circulation and increased risk of heart attack or stroke. The heart may also become enlarged and the kidneys may become progressively involved. Other symptoms include decreased sweating, fever, and gastrointestinal difficulties, particularly after eating. Fabry disease is one of several lipid storage disorders.
Is there any treatment?
Enzyme replacement may be effective in slowing the progression of the disease. The pain in the hands and feet usually responds to anticonvulsants such as phenytoin and carbamazepine. Gastrointestinal hyperactivity may be treated with metoclopramide. Some individuals may require dialysis or kidney transplantation.
What research is being done?
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), a component of the National Institutes of Health, conducts and supports research to find ways to treat and prevent lipid storage diseases such as Fabry disease. This research includes clinical studies by the NINDS Developmental and Metabolic Neurology Branch:http://www.ninds.nih.gov/find_people/labs/61.htm.
Select this link to view a list of studies currently seeking patients.
Fabry Support & Information Group
108 NE 2nd Street, Ste. C
P.O. Box 510
Concordia, MO 64020-0510
National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD)
P.O. Box 1968
(55 Kenosia Avenue)
Danbury, CT 06813-1968
Tel: 203-744-0100 Voice Mail 800-999-NORD (6673)
National Tay-Sachs and Allied Diseases Association
2001 Beacon Street
Brighton, MA 02135
Tel: 617-277-4463 800-90-NTSAD (906-8723)