Fabry Disease
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Fabry Disease

(Alpha-Galactosidase A Deficiency; Anderson-Fabry Disease; Angiokeratoma Corporis Diffusum; Angiokeratoma Diffuse; Ceramide Trihexosidase Deficiency; GLA Deficiency; Glycolipid Lipidosis; Hereditary Dystopic Lipidosis)

En Español (Spanish Version)


Fabry disease is an inherited genetic disorder caused by a defective gene. The disease causes fatty deposits in several organs of the body.

Males who inherit the defective gene will express the disease. Females who have a single copy of the gene are called "carriers" and most are asymptomatic (do not have symptoms). However, some women do have symptoms, and the severity of these symptoms can vary widely. On occasion, women may be as severely affected as men.


Fabry disease is caused by a deficiency of the enzyme alpha galactosidase-A (GALA, also known as ceramide trihexosidase). GALA usually works to clear fatty substances called glycosphingolipids from the body. However, in Fabry disease, the absence of GALA causes this fatty substance to accumulate in the blood and blood vessel walls. This leads to constriction of blood flow through the vessels. Eventually, the decreased blood flow leads to problems of the skin, kidneys, heart, and nervous system.

Risk Factors

A risk factor is something that increases your chance of getting a disease or condition. The primary risk factor for Fabry disease is having family members with the disease or who are carriers of the disease.


Symptoms of Fabry disease may begin in childhood or early adulthood. Common symptoms include:

  • Pain and burning sensations in the hands and feet, often provoked by exercise, fatigue, or fever
  • Spotted, dark red skin lesions (angiokeratomas) that generally are found in the area between the belly button and the knees (they may also be found elsewhere)
  • Inability to sweat
  • Changes in the eyes (corneal opacities, cataracts )



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As adults, males may experience the following symptoms due to blood vessel blockage:



© 2008 Nucleus Medical Art, Inc.


Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history, and perform a physical exam. Diagnosis is usually made on the basis of the symptoms listed above. A test to measure the enzyme GALA or DNA analysis can confirm Fabry disease.


There is no cure for Fabry disease. But in 2003, the US Food and Drug Administration approved the use of “Fabrazyme” (recombinant alpha-galactosidase), an enzyme replacement therapy as treatment for Fabry disease. While the long-term effects and risks of this treatment are not yet known, treatment is currently recommended for all adults with Fabry disease and for all adult women who are known carriers. Preliminary pediatric data is somewhat encouraging, but enzyme replacement in children is still an experimental procedure. The NIH is conducting ongoing research into the use of Fabrazyme in children.

Currently, medications or procedures are used to treat symptoms of Fabry disease.

To Treat Pain

  • Carbamazepine (Tegretol)
    • According to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), patients of Asian ancestry who have a certain gene, called HLA-B*1502, and take carbamazepine are at risk for dangerous or even fatal skin reactions. If you are of Asian descent, the FDA recommends that you get tested for this gene before taking carbamazepine. If you have been taking this medication for a few months with no skin reactions, then you are at low risk of developing these reactions. Talk to your doctor before stopping this medication. *
  • Phenytoin (Dilantin)
  • Neurontin

To Treat Stomach Hyperactivity

  • Lipisorb
  • Metoclopramide (Reglan)
  • Pancrelipase

To Treat Certain Heart Disorders

  • Anticoagulants

To Treat Kidney Disease


There is no known way to prevent Fabry disease. If you have Fabry disease or have a family history of the disorder, you can talk to a genetic counselor when deciding to have children.


Fabry Support and Information Group (FSIG)

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke

National Tay-Sachs and Allied Diseases Association


Canadian Fabry Association

Fabry Society of Canada


Fabry Support and Information Group website. Available at: http://www.fabry.org .

National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: http://www.ninds.nih.gov .

Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics . 18th Edition. WB Saunders; 2007.

*12/20/2007 DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance DynaMed's Systematic Literature Surveillance : 2007 safety alerts for drugs, biologics, medical devices, and dietary supplements: Carbamazepine (marketed as Carbatrol, Equetro, Tegretol and generics). Medwatch. US Food and Drug Administration website. Available at: http://www.fda.gov/medwatch/safety/2007/safety07.htm#carbamazepine .

Last reviewed February 2008 by Kari Kassir, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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