Learn About Ataxia-Telangiectasia

What is the definition of Ataxia-Telangiectasia?

Ataxia-telangiectasia is a rare childhood disease. It affects the brain and other parts of the body.

Ataxia refers to uncoordinated movements, such as walking. Telangiectasias are enlarged blood vessels (capillaries) just below the surface of the skin. Telangiectasias appear as tiny, red, spider-like blood vessels.

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What are the alternative names for Ataxia-Telangiectasia?

Louis-Bar syndrome

What are the causes of Ataxia-Telangiectasia?

Ataxia-telangiectasia is inherited. This means it is passed down through families. It is an autosomal recessive trait. Both parents must provide a copy of a nonworking gene for the child to have symptoms of the disorder.

The disease results from a mutation in the ATM gene. This gene provides instructions for making a protein that helps control the rate at which cells grow and divide. Defects in this gene can lead to abnormal cell death around the body, including the part of the brain that helps coordinate movement.

Boys and girls are equally affected.

What are the symptoms of Ataxia-Telangiectasia?

Symptoms include:

  • Decreased coordination of movements (ataxia) in late childhood that can include ataxic gait (cerebellar ataxia), jerky gait, unsteadiness
  • Decreasing mental development, slows or stops after age 10 to 12
  • Delayed walking
  • Discoloration of skin areas exposed to sunlight
  • Discoloration of skin (coffee-with-milk-colored spots)
  • Enlarged blood vessels in skin of nose, ears, and inside of the elbow and knee
  • Enlarged blood vessels in the whites of the eyes
  • Jerky or abnormal eye movements (nystagmus) late in the disease
  • Premature graying of the hair
  • Seizures
  • Sensitivity to radiation, including x-rays
  • Severe respiratory infections that keep coming back (recurring)
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What are the current treatments for Ataxia-Telangiectasia?

There is no specific treatment for ataxia-telangiectasia. Treatment is directed at specific symptoms.

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What are the support groups for Ataxia-Telangiectasia?

Ataxia Telangiectasia Children's Project: www.atcp.org

National Ataxia Foundation (NAF): www.ataxia.org

What is the outlook (prognosis) for Ataxia-Telangiectasia?

Early death is common, but life expectancy varies.

Because people with this condition are very sensitive to radiation, they should never be given radiation therapy, and no unnecessary x-rays should be done.

What are the possible complications of Ataxia-Telangiectasia?

Complications may include:

  • Cancer, such as lymphoma
  • Diabetes
  • Kyphosis
  • Progressive movement disorder that leads to wheelchair use
  • Scoliosis
  • Severe, recurrent lung infections
When should I contact a medical professional for Ataxia-Telangiectasia?

Contact your provider if your child develops symptoms of this disorder.

How do I prevent Ataxia-Telangiectasia?

Couples with a family history of this condition who are considering pregnancy may consider genetic counseling.

Parents of a child with this disorder may have a slight increased risk for cancer. They should have genetic counseling and increased cancer screenings.

What are the latest Ataxia-Telangiectasia Clinical Trials?
A Phase 1 Proof-of-Concept Study Investigating AZD6738 Monotherapy and Acalabrutinib in Combination With AZD6738 (ATR Inhibitor) in Subjects With Relapsed or Refractory High-risk Chronic Lymphocytic Leukemia (CLL)

Summary: This study evaluates the safety, pharmacokinetics, pharmacodynamics and efficacy of acalabrutinib and ceralasertib (known as AZD6738) when taken in combination

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Feasibility of Whole-body MRI for Cancer Surveillance in Children and Young People With Ataxia Telangiectasia

Summary: Ataxia Telangiectasia (A-T) is an inherited disorder characterised by cerebellar neurodegeneration, immunodeficiency and respiratory disease. People with A-T have abnormal DNA repair and consequently have an increased risk of cancer. Despite this, current guidelines for management of children and young people with A-T do not include cancer surveillance. Improvements in MRI technology have allowed ...

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Who are the sources who wrote this article ?

Published Date: July 30, 2021
Published By: Anna C. Edens Hurst, MD, MS, Associate 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.

What are the references for this article ?

Gatti R, Perlman S. Ataxia-telangiectasia. GeneReviews [Internet]. 2016. PMID: 20301790 pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20301790/. Updated October 27, 2016. Accessed October 29, 2021.

Martin KL. Vascular disorders. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 669.

Safier RA, Cleves-Bayon C, Gaesser J. Neurology. In: Zitelli BJ, McIntire SC, Nowalk AJ, eds. Zitelli and Davis' Atlas of Pediatric Diagnosis. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2023:chap 16.