Developmental Disabilities

Tay Sachs Disease

Tay Sachs Disease

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Tay-Sachs disease is a fatal genetic lipid storage disorder in which harmful quantities of a fatty substance called ganglioside GM2 build up in tissues and nerve cells in the brain. This is caused by insufficient activity of an enzyme called beta-hexosaminidase A.

Infants with Tay-Sachs disease appear to develop normally for the first few months of life. Then, as nerve cells have a build up fatty material, a deterioration of mental and physical abilities occurs. The child becomes blind, deaf, and unable to swallow. Muscles begin to atrophy and paralysis sets in. Other symptoms include dementia, seizures, and an increased startle reflex to noise. A much rarer form of the disorder occurs in patients in their twenties and early thirties and is characterized by an unsteady gait and progressive neurological deterioration. Persons with Tay-Sachs also have "cherry-red" spots in their eyes. Tay-Sachs is particularly high among people of Eastern European and Askhenazi Jewish descent. Patients and carriers of Tay-Sachs disease can be identified by a simple blood test that measures beta-hexosaminidase A activity. Both parents must carry the mutated gene in order to have an affected child. In these instances, there is a 25 percent chance with each pregnancy that the child will be affected with Tay-Sachs disease. Prenatal diagnosis is available if desired.

Presently there is no treatment for Tay-Sachs disease. Anticonvulsant medicine may initially control seizures. Other supportive treatment includes proper nutrition and hydration and techniques to keep the airway open. Children may eventually need a feeding tube. Even with the best of care, children with Tay-Sachs disease usually die by age 4, from recurring infection.

National Institute of Neurological Disorders & Stroke, National Institute of Health

http://www.ninds.nih.gov

 

From 1989 - 1996 Dr. Turben was Assistant Professor of Teacher Education at John Carroll University. In addition to teaching Teach Education and Early Childhood-Special Education courses, she supervised masters and post-baccalaureate programs that lead to the PreK, Kindergarten, and Early Education of Handicapped Children validations. She has done research concerning the effectiveness of home visits, the importance of neighborhoods as social structures and parent involvement in schools.
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