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Ataxia Telangiectasia Information
- Ataxia-telangiectasia (AT) (Boder-Sedgwick syndrome or Louis-Bar syndrome) is a primary immunodeficiency disorder that occurs in an estimated incidence of 1 in 40,000 to 1 in 300,000 births. Telangiectasias are small, red 'spider' veins. These typically appear on the surface of the ears and cheeks or in the corners of the eyes in patients with AT. The 'ataxia' part of the name refers to the difficulty patients with AT have walking. At early age, the child's walking becomes wobbly, at teens handicapped-bound and at the early 20s, it becomes fatal...
The outlook for AT sufferers is not good, mainly due to the compromised immune system which results in recurrent respiratory infections. Neurological features are progressive as is deterioration and aging of the skin and hair with ataxia usually seen in the first year of life. Sufferers are usually wheelchair bound by the age of 10 or 11. Telangiectasias are not seen in the early stages of the disease and begin to appear after a few years i.e. between 3-6 years of age, in the corners of the eyes, ears and cheeks. Individuals are also at a 10% risk of developing cancer, usually lymphomas and often breast cancer. However due to sufferers hyper-sensitivity to ionising radiation, radiotherapy and chemotherapy must be used with extreme caution. Oculo-cutaneous telangiectasia is often not obvious in the early stages of the disease. Other features of the disease may include mild diabetes mellitus, premature graying of the hair, difficulty swallowing, and delayed physical and sexual development. Children with A-T usually have normal or above normal intelligence.
Treatment is symptomatic and supportive. Physical and occupational therapy may help maintain flexibility. Speech therapy may also be needed. Gamma-globulin injections may be given to help supplement a weakened immune system. High-dose vitamin regimens may also be used. Antibiotics are used to treat infections. Some physicians recommend low doses of chemotherapy to reduce the risk of cancer but this is controversial. It is also recommended that heterozygote family members are regularly monitored for cancers. Recently desferrioxamine was shown to increase the stability of AT cells and may prove to be an effective treatment for the disorder.
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