Leigh’s Disease is a progressive neurometabolic disorder with a general onset in infancy or childhood, often after a viral infection, but can also occur in teens and adults. It is characterized on MRI by visible necrotizing (dead or dying tissue) lesions on the brain, particularly in the midbrain and brainstem.
The child often appears normal at birth but typically begins displaying symptoms within a few months to two years of age, although the timing may be much earlier or later. Initial symptoms can include the loss of basic skills such as sucking, head control, walking and talking.
These may be accompanied by other problems such as irritability, loss of appetite, vomiting and seizures. There may be periods of sharp decline or temporary restoration of some functions. Eventually, the child may also have heart, kidney, vision, and breathing complications.
There is no cure for Leigh’s Disease. Treatments generally involve variations of vitamin and supplement therapies, often in a “cocktail” combination, and are only partially effective.
The most common treatment for Leigh's disease is thiamine or Vitamin B1. Oral sodium bicarbonate or sodium citrate may also be prescribed to manage lactic acidosis. Researchers are currently testing dichloroacetate to establish its effectiveness in treating lactic acidosis. In individuals who have the X-linked form of Leigh's disease, a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet may be recommended. In some cases, a special diet may be ordered and must be monitored by a dietician knowledgeable in metabolic disorders.
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