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Articles » NINDS Adrenoleukodystrophy Information Page: NINDS
 

NINDS Adrenoleukodystrophy Information Page: NINDS

Article title: NINDS Adrenoleukodystrophy Information Page: NINDS

Conditions: Adrenoleukodystrophy


What is Adrenoleukodystrophy?
Adrenoleukodystrophy (ALD) is a rare, genetic disorder characterized by the breakdown or loss of the myelin sheath surrounding nerve cells in the brain and progressive dysfunction of the adrenal gland. ALD is one of a group of genetic disorders called the leukodystrophies that cause damage to the myelin sheath, the fatty covering which acts as an insulator on nerve fibers in the brain. There are several forms of ALD. Onset of the classic childhood form, which is the most severe and affects only boys, may occur between ages 4 and 10. Features of this form may include visual loss, learning disabilities, seizures, dysarthria (poorly articulated speech), dysphagia (difficulty swallowing), deafness, disturbances of gait and coordination, fatigue, intermittent vomiting, melanoderma (increased skin pigmentation), and progressive dementia. The most common symptoms are usually behavioral changes such as abnormal withdrawal or aggression, poor memory, and poor school performance. In the milder adult-onset form, which typically begins between ages 21 and 35, symptoms may include leg stiffness, progressive spastic paraparesis (stiffness, weakness and/or paralysis) of the lower extremities, and ataxia. Although adult-onset ALD progresses more slowly than the classic childhood form, it can also result in deterioration of brain function. Another form of ALD is occasionally seen in women who are carriers of the disorder. Symptoms are mild and may include spastic paraparesis of the lower limbs, ataxia, hypertonia (excessive muscle tone), mild peripheral neuropathy, and urinary problems. Neonatal ALD affects both male and female newborns. Symptoms may include mental retardation, facial abnormalities, seizures, retinal degeneration, hypotonia (low muscle tone), heptomegaly (enlarged liver), and adrenal dysfunction. This form is usually quickly progressive.

Is there any treatment?
Bone marrow transplantation is effective early in the course of the childhood form. Physical and psychological therapy is important in all forms of ALD.

What is the prognosis?
Prognosis for patients with ALD is generally poor except after successful bone marrow transplantation. Death may occur within 1 to 10 years after the onset of symptoms due to disease progression.

What research is being done?
The NINDS supports research on genetic disorders such as ALD. The aim of this research is to find ways to prevent, treat, and cure these disorders.

 Organizations

National Organization for Rare Disorders (NORD)
P.O. Box 8923
(100 Route 37)
New Fairfield, CT 06812-8923
orphan@rarediseases.org
http://www.rarediseases.org/
Tel: 203-746-6518 800-999-NORD (6673)
Fax: 203-746-6481

National Tay-Sachs and Allied Diseases Association
2001 Beacon Street
Suite 204
Boston, MA 02135
NTSAD-boston@worldnet.att.net
http://www.ntsad.org/
Tel: 617-277-4463 800-90-NTSAD (906-8723)
Fax: 617-277-0134

United Leukodystrophy Foundation
2304 Highland Drive
Sycamore, IL 60178
ulf@tbcnet.com
http://www.ulf.org/
Tel: 815-895-3211 800-728-5483
Fax: 815-895-2432

This fact sheet is in the public domain. You may copy it.Provided by:
The National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
National Institutes of Health
Bethesda, MD 20892


 

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