Batten disease is a fatal, inherited disorder of the nervous system that begins in childhood. In some cases, the early signs are subtle, taking the form of personality and behavior changes, slow learning, clumsiness, or stumbling. Symptoms of Batten disease are linked to a buildup of substances called lipopigments in the body's tissues. Lipopigments are made up of fats and proteins. Because vision loss is often an early sign, Batten disease may be first suspected during an eye exam. Often, an eye specialist or other physician may refer the child to a neurologist. Diagnostic tests for Batten disease include blood or urine tests, skin or tissue sampling, an electroencephalogram (EEG), electrical studies of the eyes, and brain scans.
As yet, no specific treatment is known that can halt or reverse the symptoms of Batten disease. However, seizures can sometimes be reduced or controlled with anticonvulsant drugs, and other medical problems can be treated appropriately as they arise. Physical therapy and occupational therapy may help patients retain functioning as long as possible.
Over time, affected children suffer mental impairment, worsening seizures, and progressive loss of sight and motor skills. Eventually, children with Batten disease become blind, bedridden, and demented. Batten disease is often fatal by the late teens or twenties.
Prepared by the National Institutes of Health
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