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Ataxia-Telangiectasia

By

James Fernandez

, MD, PhD, Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine at Case Western Reserve University

Last full review/revision Apr 2021| Content last modified Apr 2021
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Topic Resources

Ataxia-telangiectasia is a hereditary disorder characterized by incoordination, dilated capillaries, and an immunodeficiency that causes increased susceptibility to infections.

  • In children with ataxia-telangiectasia, incoordination usually develops when they begin to walk, and muscles progressively weaken, causing them to be greatly disabled.

  • Doctors do blood tests to diagnose the disorder.

  • Treatment involves antibiotics (to prevent infections) and immune globulin.

Ataxia-telangiectasia also causes abnormalities in the cerebellum (the part of the brain that coordinates the body’s movements), which are unrelated to the immunodeficiency disorder and which result in loss of coordination.

Symptoms of Ataxia-Telangiectasia

Incoordination (ataxia) usually develops when children begin to walk, but it may be delayed until age 4. Speech becomes slurred, and muscles progressively weaken, leading to severe disability. Intellectual disability may develop and progress.

Between the ages of 1 and 6 (but often not until age 4), capillaries in the skin and eyes become dilated and visible. The dilated capillaries (telangiectasia), called spider veins, are usually most obvious on the eyeballs, ears, and sides of the neck.

Ataxia-telangiectasia usually progresses to paralysis, dementia, and death, typically by age 30.

Diagnosis of Ataxia-Telangiectasia

  • Blood tests

  • Genetic testing

Doctors suspect ataxia-telangiectasia based on symptoms.

Blood tests to measure the levels of IgA and genetic tests can help confirm the diagnosis.

If doctors suspect endocrine disorders or cancers based on results of their examination, tests to check for these disorders are done.

Treatment of Ataxia-Telangiectasia

  • Antibiotics and immune globulin

To help prevent infections, doctors give people antibiotics and immune globulin (antibodies obtained from the blood of people with a normal immune system), which provides the missing immunoglobulins. Immune globulin may be injected into a vein (intravenously) once a month or under the skin (subcutaneously) once a week or once a month.

However, these drugs do not relieve the other problems.

More Information about Ataxia-Telangiectasia

The following is an English-language resource that may be useful. Please note that THE MANUAL is not responsible for the content of this resource.

Drugs Mentioned In This Article

Generic Name Select Brand Names
Gammagard S/D
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