Neuronal ceroid lipofuscinoses (NCL)

Definition

Neuronal ceroid lipofuscinoses (NCL) refers to a group of rare disorders of the nerve cells. NCL is passed down through families (inherited).

These are the three main types of NCL:

Causes

NCL involves the buildup of an abnormal material called lipofuscin in the brain. NCL is thought to be caused by problems with the brain's ability to remove and recycle proteins.

Lipofuscinoses are inherited as autosomal recessive traits. This means each parent passes on a nonworking copy of the gene for the child to develop the condition.

Only one adult subtype of NCL is inherited as autosomal dominant trait. 

Symptoms

Symptoms of NCL include:

Exams and Tests

The disorder may be seen at birth, but it is usually diagnosed much later in childhood.

Tests include:

Treatment

There is no cure for NCL disorders. Treatment depends on the type of NCL and extent of symptoms. Your health care provider may prescribe muscle relaxants to control irritability and sleep disturbances. Medicines may also be prescribed to control seizures and anxiety. A person with NCL may need lifelong assistance and care.

Support Groups

The following resources can provide more information on NCL:

Outlook (Prognosis)

The younger the person is when the disease appears, the greater the risk for disability and early death. Those who develop the disease early can have vision problems that progress to blindness and problems with mental function that get worse. If the disease starts in the first year of life, death by age 10 is likely.

If the disease occurs in adulthood, symptoms will be milder, with no vision loss and a normal life expectancy.

Possible Complications

These complications can occur:

The person may become totally dependent on others for help with daily activities.

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Call your provider if your child shows symptoms of blindness or intellectual disability.

Prevention

Genetic counseling is recommended if your family has a known history of NCL. Prenatal tests, or a test called preimplantation genetic diagnosis (PGD), may be available, depending on the specific type of disease. In PGD, an embryo is tested for abnormalities before it is implanted in the woman's womb.


Review Date: 10/3/2019
Reviewed By: Anna C. Edens Hurst, MD, MS, Assistant Professor in Medical Genetics, The University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

This information should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. © 1997- 2007 A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.