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Batten Disease: Symptoms, Causes, Treatments

Published: 2010-02-12 - Updated: 2023-01-28
Author: Thomas C. Weiss | Contact: Disabled World (Disabled-World.com)
Peer-Reviewed Publication: N/A
Additional References: Types of Disability Publications

Synopsis: Batten disease is a form of fatal inherited disorder that affects a persons nervous system. The early Symptoms of Batten disease can appear between the ages of five and ten. Parents or a doctor might notice that a child has started to develop vision issues or seizures. Over time, children with Batten disease experience worsening seizures, mental impairment, and progressive loss of motor skills and vision. Batten disease and other forms of NCLs are relatively rare. They happen in approximately two to four out of every one-hundred thousand persons born in America. The disorders seem more common in nations such as Sweden, Finland, and other parts of northern Europe, as well as Newfoundland, Canada.

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Main Digest

Batten disease is a form of a fatal inherited disorder that affects a person's nervous system. Batten disease starts during childhood, and in some cases, the signs are rather subtle, taking on the form of behavioral and personality changes, clumsiness, slow learning, or stumbling.

Batten disease is named after the British pediatrician who described it in 1903. The disease is also known as Spielmeyer-Vogt-Sjogren-Batten disease and is the most common form of a disorder referred to as 'neuronal ceroid lipofuscinoses,' or NCLs. While Batten disease is commonly regarded as the juvenile form of NCL, some doctors use the term Batten disease to describe any form of NCL.

The U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) has included Batten Disease as a Compassionate Allowance to expedite a disability claim.

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Symptoms of Batten Disease

The symptoms presented by Batten disease are connected to a buildup of substances known as 'lip pigments' in the person's bodily tissues. Lipopigments are comprised of fats and proteins. Vision loss is an early sign of Batten disease and can be an indicator caught during an eye examination. Often, an optometrist or doctor might refer a child to a neurologist. Diagnostic testing for Batten disease includes urine or blood testing, tissue or skin sampling, an EEG, brain scans, and electrical studies of the person's eyes.

The early Symptoms of the disease can appear between the ages of five and ten. Parents or a doctor might notice that a child has started to develop vision issues or seizures. Over time, children with Batten disease experience worsening seizures, mental impairment, and progressive loss of motor skills and vision. At some point, children with the disease become blind, stay in bed, and experience dementia. People affected by Batten disease often die by the time they reach late adolescence or their twenties.

Batten disease, as well as other forms of NCLs, are fairly rare. They happen in approximately two to four out of every one-hundred thousand persons born in America. The disorders seem more common in nations such as Sweden, Finland, and other parts of northern Europe, as well as Newfoundland, Canada. Despite being classified as rare diseases, NCLs often affect more than one person in families carrying defective genes. There are an estimated several hundred children in America that have Batten disease.

Batten disease is a form of the autosomal recessive disorder, meaning that it only happens when a child inherits two copies of the defective gene - one from each of their parents. When both of the child's parents carry one defective gene, each of their children has a twenty-five percent chance of developing Batten disease. Each child also has a fifty-percent chance of inheriting just one copy of the defective gene. People who have one defective gene are referred to as 'carriers,' meaning that they do not develop Batten disease yet have the ability to pass the gene to their children.

Causes

The symptoms of Batten disease, as well as other forms of NCLs, are linked to a buildup of substances referred to as 'lipofuscins,' or 'lip pigments,' in the person's body tissues. Lipopigments are made up of proteins and fats. Lipopigments build up inside the person's brain cells, optic nerve, skin, muscles, and other tissues. The pigments create deposits with distinctive shapes that can be viewed under an electron microscope. Some appear similar to half-moons, while others look like fingerprints. Average human systems consistently dispose of lipofuscins. People with Batten disease have genes that prevent their bodies from doing so.

Medical science has discovered the biochemical defects that underlie several NCLs. An enzyme called 'palmitoyl-protein thioesterase' has been demonstrated to be insufficiently active in the infantile form of Batten disease. This condition is now referred to as 'CLN1.' There is a late infantile form referred to as 'CLN2,' where a deficiency of an acid protease - an enzyme that hydrolyzes proteins, has been discovered as the cause of the condition. A gene mutation has been identified in juvenile Batten disease, referred to as, 'The same reference refers to CLN3,' as well as a protein related to. There have been forty-two mutations discovered in association with CLN3. One of the mutations in which some of the genes are missing is responsible for eighty-five percent of the people with juvenile NCL of European descent.

Diagnosing Batten Disease

Obtaining an accurate diagnosis can be difficult because Batten disease is rare; many doctors are unfamiliar with the disease. Because of this, misdiagnosis is common, leading to frustration on the part of family members. As mentioned, vision loss is often an early sign of the disease, so that it may be first suspected by a professional performing an eye examination. An eye doctor can detect a loss of cells within a person's eye during the three childhood forms of NCL. Unfortunately, because of the kind of cell loss that happens in other eye diseases, Batten's disease is something that cannot be diagnosed by this sign alone. An eye doctor or physician who suspects Batten disease often refers the child to a neurologist specializing in brain and nervous system diseases.

Modern genetic testing, as well as blood testing, may confirm Batten disease. Several additional diagnostic tests can be performed.

Misdiagnosis

There is potential for misdiagnosis related to Batten disease. Because any particular autosomal recessive disorder is rare and often has complex symptoms and laboratory results, accurate and timely diagnoses are difficult. Batten disease is many times misdiagnosed as 'retinitis pigmentosa.' Wilson's disease is a form of autosomal recessive genetic disorder that causes liver and neurological problems. Wilson's disease also causes psychiatric problems, including depression, behavioral changes, psychosis, and anxiety, and is often misdiagnosed as schizophrenia. Differentiating rare conditions often rely on subtle and circumstantial evidence; even the most experienced clinicians can find it difficult because many autosomal recessive disorders share similar features.

Treatment of Batten Disease

Medical science has not yet discovered a specific treatment that will either stop or reverse the symptoms of Batten disease. Seizure activity may sometimes be either reduced or controlled by administering anticonvulsant medications. Other medical problems may be treated as they arise. Both occupational and physical therapies can assist people with Batten disease to retain levels of functioning as long as possible.

Author Credentials:

Thomas C. Weiss is a researcher and editor for Disabled World. Thomas attended college and university courses earning a Masters, Bachelors and two Associate degrees, as well as pursing Disability Studies. As a Nursing Assistant Thomas has assisted people from a variety of racial, religious, gender, class, and age groups by providing care for people with all forms of disabilities from Multiple Sclerosis to Parkinson's; para and quadriplegia to Spina Bifida.

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Cite This Page (APA): Thomas C. Weiss. (2010, February 12). Batten Disease: Symptoms, Causes, Treatments. Disabled World. Retrieved February 5, 2023 from www.disabled-world.com/disability/types/batten-disease.php

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