The benefits of early diagnosis of CTX
Learn how an eye doctor identified a case of CTX in a
CTX causes cholestanol to build up in the eyes, tendons, brain, and other tissues, which can cause a lot of different problems.
CTX patients may experience neonatal cholestasis early in life. However, neonatal cholestasis can resolve spontaneously and the CTX diagnosis may be missed. There are many causes of neonatal cholestasis but if the infant has prolonged and unexplained neonatal cholestasis or jaundice, where the skin and the whites of the eyes may appear yellow, CTX should be considered.
About half of all people with CTX have chronic diarrhea as babies or young children. There are many possible causes of diarrhea, but if a child develops cataracts in both eyes for no apparent reason, and has a history of chronic diarrhea, a test for CTX may be a good idea.
Most people with CTX will develop cataracts in both eyes while they are still young, often between the ages of 4 and 18 years. Although they usually need an operation, most children have normal vision after cataract surgery. Childhood cataracts are rare, and while there are other causes, CTX is 1 possibility. Testing for CTX may be considered if children have cataracts in both eyes with no apparent cause and especially if they also have suffered from another key sign.
Tendon xanthomas are unusual fatty deposits or growths in the tendons—especially the Achilles tendon at the back of the heel. More than half of people affected by CTX will develop tendon xanthomas, but typically not until their teenage years or later. By this time CTX may already have started to cause neurological problems.
CTX causes neurological problems by a slow buildup of cholestanol in the brain. It can take many years for neurological problems to show up.
Babies and children with CTX may hit early milestones (eg, walking and talking) at a normal age, but then fall behind when they are at school. They may have learning difficulties or continued babyish behavior, be unable to take care of themselves like other children can, or have trouble with school work. Before finding out that they had CTX, some children have been told they had learning disorders, behavioral difficulties, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism spectrum disorders, etc.
Without early diagnosis and the right care, neurological problems will usually get worse and can cause problems with walking, early dementia (problems with memory, thinking, language, judgment, and behavior), and psychiatric or mental problems.
If children with cataracts or teenagers or young adults with tendon xanthomas also have learning difficulties, developmental delays, or behavioral problems, a test for CTX should be considered.