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NINDS Fabry Disease Information Page

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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 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 autonomic nervous system (which controls involuntary functions such as breathing and digestion), cardiovascular system, eyes, and kidneys.  Symptoms usually begin during childhood or adolescence and include burning sensations in the arms and legs that gets worse with exercise and hot weather and small, non-cancerous, raised reddish-purple blemishes on the skin.  Excess material buildup can lead to clouding in the corneas.  Lipid storage may lead to impaired blood 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 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.  

Is there any treatment?

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.  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.

What is the prognosis?

Individuals with Fabry disease often die prematurely of complications from strokes, heart disease, or kidney failure.

What research is being done?

The mission of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS)  is to seek fundamental knowledge about the brain and nervous system and to use that knowledge to reduce the burden of neurological disease.The NINDS 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. One NINDS-funded project is evaluating a rat model of Fabry disease, through which researchers hope to develop new proteins to increase the potency of enzyme replacement therapy.

NIH Patient Recruitment for Fabry Disease Clinical Trials


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Fabry Support & Information Group
108 NE 2nd Street, Ste. C
P.O. Box 510
Concordia, MO 64020-0510
Tel: 660-463-1355
Fax: 660-463-1356

National Tay-Sachs and Allied Diseases Association
2001 Beacon Street
Suite 204
Boston, MA 02135
Tel: 800-90-NTSAD (906-8723)
Fax: 617-277-0134

National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD)
55 Kenosia Avenue
Danbury, CT 06810
Tel: 203-744-0100; Voice Mail: 800-999-NORD (6673)
Fax: 203-798-2291

National Fabry Disease Foundation
4301 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Suite 404
Washington, DC 20008-2369
Tel: 800-651-9131
Fax: 800-651-9135

Prepared by:
Office of Communications and Public Liaison
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, MD 20892

NINDS health-related material is provided for information purposes only and does not necessarily represent endorsement by or an official position of the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke or any other Federal agency. Advice on the treatment or care of an individual patient should be obtained through consultation with a physician who has examined that patient or is familiar with that patient's medical history.

All NINDS-prepared information is in the public domain and may be freely copied. Credit to the NINDS or the NIH is appreciated.

Last Modified February 22, 2016