Santavuori disease, a rare genetic disorder, belongs to a group of progressive degenerative neurometabolic diseases known as the neuronal ceroid lipofuscinoses (NCL). These disorders share certain similar symptoms and are distinguished in part by the age at which such symptoms appear. Santavuori disease is considered the infantile form of the neuronal ceroid lipofuscinoses. 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. This may result in the progressive deterioration (atrophy) of certain areas of the brain in addition to neurological impairment and other characteristic symptoms and physical findings.
In most cases, infants with Santavuori disease appear to develop normally until approximately nine to 19 months of age. They may then begin to exhibit a delay in the acquisition of skills that require the coordination of mental and muscular activity (psychomotor retardation). In addition, affected infants begin to lose previously acquired physical and mental abilities (developmental regression). Affected infants may then experience a variety of symptoms including episodes of uncontrolled electrical disturbances in the brain (seizures), impaired ability to coordinate voluntary movements (cerebellar ataxia), abnormally diminished muscle tone (hypotonia), and repeated, brief, shock-like muscle spasms of the arms, legs, or entire body (myoclonic seizures). Affected infants also experience progressive visual impairment due to deterioration of the nerves of the eyes (optic nerves) that transmit impulses from the nerve-rich membranes lining the eyes (retina) to the brain (optic atrophy). Neurological impairment continues to progress and may be characterized by an inability to move voluntarily (immobility); sudden involuntary muscle spasms (spasticity); and lack of response to stimuli in the environment. Life-threatening complications may develop by the end of the first decade. Santavuori disease is inherited as an autosomal recessive trait.
(Please note that some of these organizations may provide information concerning certain conditions potentially associated with this disorder [e.g., seizures, visual impairment, etc.].)
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