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Pediatric Neurodegenerative Diseases

Neurodegenerative disorders, also known as neuroregressive disorders, are a class of diseases that affect gray matter and white matter in the brain. Gray matter, which makes up much of the Central Nervous System (CNS) is associated with muscle control, memory, emotion, speech, and seeing and hearing. White matter works to connect areas of gray matter and transmit nerve impulses between neurons in those regions.

Causes of Pediatric Neurodegenerative Diseases

Pediatric neurodegenerative disorders can arise for a variety of reasons, and in some cases can be genetic, that is transmitted from adults to children. Other causes include:

  • Infections such as chronic HIV or Progressive Rubella Syndrome
  • Chronic lead poisoning
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Vitamin B12 & E deficiencies
  • Drugs (anticonvulsants)

Pediatric Neurodegenerative Diseases Symptoms

Symptoms of neurodegenerative diseases in children and adolescents often increase in severity over time. Symptoms are diverse and depend on whether white or gray matter in the brain is affected, and may include:

  • Cognitive impairment
  • Seizures
  • Vision difficulties or deterioration
  • Fatigue
  • Behavioral or psychiatric issues

Pediatric Neurodegenerative Diseases Diagnosis

To diagnose if your child or adolescent has a neurodegenerative disease, the physicians at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital may utilize a combination of tests such as:

  • Blood tests
  • Urine screening
  • Electroencephalogram
  • Electroretinogram
  • Nerve conduction studies
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI)

Treatment Options for Pediatric Neurodegenerative Diseases

Treatments for pediatric neurodegenerative diseases are designed to combat the underlying cause of the disorder as well as to lessen and/or eradicate the symptoms. Often, a multidisciplinary approach in which care-givers, physicians, and therapists collaborate can be helpful. Treatment options may include:

  • Anti-convulsants
  • Diet regulation
  • Physical therapy and orthotics
  • Bone marrow transplant