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 disease is also called alpha-galactosidase-A deficiency. A mutation in the gene that controls this enzyme causes insufficient breakdown of lipids, which build up to harmful levels in the eyes, kidneys, and the autonomic nervous system (which controls involuntary functions such as breathing and digestion), and cardiovascular system. Symptoms usually begin during childhood or adolescence and include burning sensations in the hands that gets worse with exercise and hot weather and small, non-cancerous, 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 impaired, leading to renal failure. Other signs include decreased sweating, fever, and gastrointestinal difficulties. Fabry disease is one of several lipid storage disorders and the only X-linked lipid storage disease (where the mother carries the affected gene on the X chromosome that determines the child's gender and passes it to her son). Boys have a 50 percent chance of inheriting the disorder and her daughters have a 50 percent chance of being a carrier. A milder form is common in females, and occasionally some affected females may have severe symptoms similar to males with the disorder.
Enzyme replacement therapy has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for the treatment of Fabry disease. Enzyme replacement therapy can reduce lipid storage, ease pain, and preserve organ function in some individuals with the disorder. The pain that accompanies the disease may be treated with anticonvulsants such as phenytoin and carbamazepine. Gastrointestinal hyperactivity may be treated with metoclopramide. Some individuals may require dialysis or kidney transplantation. Restricting one's diet does not prevent lipid buildup in cells and tissues.
Individuals with Fabry disease often die prematurely of complications from strokes, heart disease, or kidney failure.
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS), a component of the National Institutes of Health, supports research to find ways to treat and prevent lipid storage diseases such as Fabry disease. Researchers hope to identify biomarkers -- signs that may indicate risk of a disease and improve diagnosis -- for Fabry disease and other lipid storage diseases that will speed the development of novel therapeutics for these disorders.
Fabry Support & Information Group
108 NE 2nd Street, Ste. C
P.O. Box 510
Concordia, MO 64020-0510
National Tay-Sachs and Allied Diseases Association
2001 Beacon Street
Boston, MA 02135
Tel: 800-90-NTSAD (906-8723)
National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD)
55 Kenosia Avenue
Danbury, CT 06810
Tel: 203-744-0100 Voice Mail 800-999-NORD (6673)
National Fabry Disease Foundation
4301 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20008-2369
Office of Communications and Public Liaison
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, MD 20892
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Last Modified September 2, 2015