Fabry disease is a metabolic disorder that is part of a group known as lysosomal storage diseases. It causes fatty substances to build up in the blood and blood vessels. The buildup slows or blocks blood flow to the organs. It can cause problems in the skin, kidneys, heart, and nervous system.
Fabry disease is caused by low levels of an enzyme called alpha galactosidase-A. This enzyme is needed to break down fatty substances. The specific genes that create the enzymes are faulty. The faulty gene is inherited from the mother.
Males who inherit the defective gene will have the disease. Females who have a single copy of the gene are called carriers. Most will not develop any symptoms, but they can pass the gene to their offspring. However, some women do have symptoms. On occasion, women may be as severely affected as men.
Symptoms may begin in childhood or early adulthood. Common symptoms include:
- Pain and burning sensations in the hands and feet—often worse during exercise, fatigue, or fever
- Spotted, dark reddish-purple skin lesions between the belly button and the knees
- Decreased sweating
- Vision problems
- Hearing loss
- Delayed puberty or delayed growth
As adults, males may have the following complications due to blood vessel blockage:
- Severe kidney problems
- Early stroke or heart attack
- High blood pressure
- Heart failure, left ventricular hypertrophy
- Mitral valve prolapse or insufficiency
- Frequent bowel movements after eating
- Joint or back pain
- Ringing in the ears or vertigo
- Chronic bronchitis or shortness of breath
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There is no cure for Fabry disease. There is a medication to treat the condition. The medication works as an enzyme replacement. It is given through an IV at regular intervals.
Treatment may also involve other medications to reduce symptoms such as:
- Pain medications—may be over-the-counter or prescription
- Medications to treat stomach hyperactivity
- Blood thinners and medication to manage arrhythmias and other heart disorders
The kidneys may be damaged from blood flow problems. They may require:
- Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors and/or an angiotensin receptor blockers (ARBs)—to stabilize kidney function
- Hemodialysis—if the kidneys are not able to function fully
- Kidney transplantation—if kidney failure has occurred
This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.
Edits to original content made by Denver Health.
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a (Alpha-Galactosidase A Deficiency; Anderson-Fabry Disease; Angiokeratoma Corporis Diffusum; Angiokeratoma Diffuse; Ceramide Trihexosidase Deficiency; GLA Deficiency; Glycolipid Lipidosis; Hereditary Dystopic Lipidosis)
Fabry Support and Information Group http://www.fabry.org
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke http://www.ninds.nih.gov
Canadian Fabry Association http://www.fabrycanada.com
Health Canada http://www.hc-sc.gc.ca
Fabry disease. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114633/Fabry-disease . Updated August 19, 2016. Accessed September 23, 2016.
Martins AM, D’Almeida V, Kyosen SO, et al. Guidelines to diagnosis and monitoring of Fabry disease and review of treatment experiences. J Pediatrics. 2009;155(4 Suppl):S19-S31.
NINDS Fabry disease information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/fabrys/fabrys.htm. Updated October 6, 2011. Accessed August 14, 2013.
7/13/2014 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114633/Fabry-disease . Laney DA, Bennett RL, Clarke V, et al. Fabry disease practice guidelines: recommendations of the National Society of Genetic Counselors. J Genet Couns. 2013;22(5):555-564.