(Alpha-Galactosidase A Deficiency; Anderson-Fabry Disease; Angiokeratoma Corporis Diffusum; Angiokeratoma Diffuse; Ceramide Trihexosidase Deficiency; GLA Deficiency; Glycolipid Lipidosis; Hereditary Dystopic Lipidosis)
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 due to a problem in the genes. 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 parents.
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.
Factors that may increase your risk of Fabry disease include:
- Having family members with the disease
- Having a family history of kidney failure
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
You will be asked about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Diagnosis is usually made based on the symptoms listed above. A test to measure the alpha galactosidase-A enzyme or DNA test can confirm Fabry disease.
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
- 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) inhibitor and/or an angiotensin receptor blocker—to stabilize kidney function
- Hemodialysis—if the kidneys are not able to function fully
- Kidney transplantation—if kidney failure has occurred
There is no known way to prevent Fabry disease. Consider genetic counseling if you have Fabry disease or have a family history of the disorder. The counselor can show you the risk of passing the condition on to your child.
Fabry Support and Information Group (FSIG)
National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke
Canadian Fabry Association
Fabry disease. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Updated July 10, 2014. Accessed July 13, 2014.
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.
12/20/2007 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed: 2007 safety alerts for drugs, biologics, medical devices, and dietary supplements: Carbamazepine (marketed as Carbatrol, Equetro, Tegretol and generics). Medwatch. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/medwatch/safety/2007/safety07.htm#carbamazepine.
7/13/2014 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed. Laney DA, Bennett RL, et al. Fabry disease practice guidelines: recommendations of the National Society of Genetic Counselors. J Genet Couns. 2013 Oct;22(5):555-564.
Last reviewed July 2014 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.