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NINDS Kennedy's Disease Information Page

Synonym(s):   Bulbospinal Muscular Atrophy, X-Linked Spinal and Bulbar Muscular Atrophy

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What is Kennedy's Disease?

Kennedy's disease is an inherited motor neuron disease that affects males. It is one of a group of disorders called lower motor neuron disorders (which involve disruptions in the transmission of nerve cell signals in the brain to nerve cells in the brain stem and spinal cord). Onset of the disease is usually between the ages of 20 and 40, although it has been diagnosed in men from their teens to their 70s. Early symptoms include tremor of the outstretched hands, muscle cramps with exertion, and fasciculations (fleeting muscle twitches visible under the skin). Eventually, individuals develop limb weakness which usually begins in the pelvic or shoulder regions. Weakness of the facial and tongue muscles may occur later in the course of the disease and often leads to dysphagia (difficulty in swallowing), dysarthria (slurring of speech), and recurrent aspiration pneumonia. Some individuals develop gynecomastia (excessive enlargement of male breasts) and low sperm count or infertility. Still others develop non-insulin-dependent diabetes mellitus.

Kennedy's disease is an x-linked recessive disease, which means the patient's mother carries the defective gene on one of her X chromosomes. Daughters of patients with Kennedy's disease are also carriers and have a 1 in 2 chance of having a son affected with the disease. Parents with concerns about their children may wish to talk to a genetic counselor.

Is there any treatment?

Currently there is no known cure for Kennedy's disease. Treatment is symptomatic and supportive. Physical therapy and rehabilitation to slow muscle weakness and atrophy may prove helpful.

What is the prognosis?

Kennedy's disease is slowly progressive. Individuals tend to remain ambulatory until late in the disease, although some may be wheelchair-bound during later stages. The life span of individuals with Kennedy's disease is usually normal.

What research is being done?

The NINDS supports a broad spectrum of research on motor neuron diseases, such as Kennedy's disease. Much of this research is aimed at increasing scientific understanding of these diseases and, ultimately, finding ways to prevent, treat, and cure them.

NIH Patient Recruitment for Kennedy's Disease Clinical Trials

Organizations

Column1 Column2
Kennedy's Disease Association
P.O. Box 1105
Coarsegold, CA   93614-1105
info@kennedysdisease.org
http://www.kennedysdisease.org
Tel: 559-658-5950

Muscular Dystrophy Association
3300 East Sunrise Drive
Tucson, AZ   85718-3208
mda@mdausa.org
http://www.mda.org
Tel: 520-529-2000 800-572-1717
Fax: 520-529-5300

National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD)
55 Kenosia Avenue
Danbury, CT   06810
orphan@rarediseases.org
http://www.rarediseases.org
Tel: 203-744-0100 Voice Mail 800-999-NORD (6673)
Fax: 203-798-2291

 
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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 updated April 16, 2014