Have a symptom?
See what questions
a doctor would ask.
Articles » NINDS Alpers' Disease Information Page: NINDS

NINDS Alpers' Disease Information Page: NINDS

Article title: NINDS Alpers' Disease Information Page: NINDS

Conditions: Alper's disease

What is Alpers' Disease?
Alpers' disease is a rare, progressive neurodegenerative disease of the brain that occurs in infants and children. It is an autosomal recessive disorder that is sometimes seen in siblings. First signs of the disease, which include intractable seizures and failure to meet meaningful developmental milestones, usually occur in infancy. Primary symptoms of the disease are developmental delay, progressive mental retardation, hypotonia (low muscle tone), spasticity (stiffness of the limbs), and dementia. Seizures may include epilepsia partialis continua, a type of seizure that consists of repeated myoclonic (muscle) jerks. Optic atrophy may also occur, often leading to blindness. And, although physical signs of chronic liver dysfunction may not be present, many patients suffer liver impairment leading to liver failure. While some researchers believe that Alpers' disease is caused by an underlying metabolic defect, no consistent defect has been identified.

Is there any treatment?
There is no cure for Alpers' disease and, currently, no way to slow its progression. Treatment is symptomatic and supportive. Anticonvulsants may be used to treat the seizures. However, caution should be used when selecting valproate as therapy since it may increase the risk of liver failure. Physical therapy may help to relieve spasticity and maintain or increase muscle tone.

What is the prognosis?
The prognosis for individuals with Alpers' disease is poor. Those with the disease usually die within their first decade of life. Liver failure is usually the cause of death, although cardiorespiratory failure may also occur.

What research is being done?
The NINDS supports research on genetic neurodegenerative disorders such as Alpers' disease. The goals of this research are to increase scientific understanding of these disorders, and to find ways to prevent, treat, and cure them.

Selected references

Narkewicz, M, et al.
Liver Involvement in Alpers Disease. Journal of Pediatrics, 119:2; 260-267 (August 1991).

Rowland, L (ed).
Merritt's Textbook of Neurology. 8th edition, Lea & Febiger, Philadelphia, p. 553 (1989).

Worle H, et. al .
Progressive cerebral degeneration of childhood with liver disease (Alpers). Clinical Neuropathology, 17:2:63-8 (March/April 1998).

Thoene, JG (ed.).
Physicians' Guide to Rare Diseases. Dowden Publishing Company, Inc., Montvale, NJ, p. 291 (1992).


March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation
1275 Mamaroneck Avenue
White Plains, NY 10605
Tel: 914-428-7100 888-MODIMES (663-4637)
Fax: 914-428-8203

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)
National Institutes of Health
Bldg. 31, Rm. 9A04
Bethesda, MD 20892-2560
Tel: 301-496-3583

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

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


By using this site you agree to our Terms of Use. Information provided on this site is for informational purposes only; it is not intended as a substitute for advice from your own medical team. The information on this site is not to be used for diagnosing or treating any health concerns you may have - please contact your physician or health care professional for all your medical needs. Please see our Terms of Use.

Home | Symptoms | Diseases | Diagnosis | Videos | Tools | Forum | About Us | Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Site Map | Advertise