Ataxia - telangiectasia
Ataxia-telangiectasia is a rare childhood disease. It affects the brain and other parts of the body.
Ataxia refers to uncoordinated movements, such as walking. Telangiectasias are enlarged blood vessels (capillaries) just below the surface of the skin. Telangiectasias appear as tiny, red, spider-like veins.
Ataxia-telangiectasia is inherited. This means it is passed down through families. It is an autosomal recessive trait. Both parents must provide a copy of a nonworking gene for the child to have symptoms of the disorder.
The disease results from defects in the ataxia telangiectasia mutated (ATM) gene. Defects in this gene can lead to abnormal cell death around the body, including the part of the brain that helps coordinate movement.
Boys and girls are equally affected.
Exams and Tests
The health care provider will perform a physical exam. The exam may show signs of the following:
Possible tests include:
There is no specific treatment for ataxia-telangiectasia. Treatment is directed at specific symptoms.
Ataxia Telangiectasia Children's Project: www.atcp.org
National Ataxia Foundation (NAF): www.ataxia.org
Early death is common, but life expectancy varies.
Because people with this condition are very sensitive to radiation, they should never be given radiation therapy, and no unnecessary x-rays should be done.
Complications may include:
When to Contact a Medical Professional
Call your provider if your child develops symptoms of this disorder.
Couples with a family history of this condition who are considering pregnancy may consider genetic counseling.
Parents of a child with this disorder may have a slight increased risk for cancer. They should have genetic counseling and increased cancer screenings.
Gatti R, Perlman S. Ataxia-telangiectasia. GeneReviews. 2016. www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20301790.
Varma R, Williams SD. Neurology. In: Zitelli BJ, McIntire SC, Norwalk AJ, eds. Zitelli and Davis' Atlas of Pediatric Diagnosis. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2018:chap 16.
Review Date: 8/6/2017
Reviewed By: Anna C. Edens Hurst, MD, MS, Assistant Professor in Medical Genetics, The University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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