Batten disease, a rare genetic disorder, belongs to a group of progressive degenerative neurometabolic disorders known as the neuronal ceroid lipofuscinoses. These disorders share certain similar symptoms and are distinguished in part by the age at which such symptoms appear. Batten disease is sometimes considered the juvenile form of the neuronal ceroid lipofuscinoses (NCLs). The NCLs are characterized by abnormal accumulation of certain fatty, granular substances (i.e., pigmented lipids [lipopigments] ceroid and lipofuscin) within nerve cells (neurons) of the brain as well as other tissues of the body that may result in progressive deterioration (atrophy) of certain areas of the brain, neurological impairment, and other characteristic symptoms and physical findings.
The symptoms of Batten disease usually become apparent between 5 and 15 years of age when progressive loss of vision, seizures, and progressive neurological degeneration develop. In some cases, initial symptoms may be more vague and include clumsiness, balance problems and behavioral or personality changes. Batten disease is inherited as an autosomal recessive trait and occurs most in families of Northern European or Scandinavian ancestry and is found worldwide.
For years, the term Batten disease was used to describe the chronic juvenile form of NCL (JNCL). Recently, some researchers have begun using the term Batten disease to encompass all types of neuronal ceroid lipofuscinoses.