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Alternating Hemiplegia of Childhood

Abstract

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NORD is very grateful to Kathryn J. Swoboda, MD, Tara Newcomb, LCGC, Matthew Sweney, MD, and Sandra P. Reyna, MD, University of Utah School of medicine, for assistance in the preparation of this report.

Synonyms of Alternating Hemiplegia of Childhood

  • AHC
  • alternating hemiplegia syndrome

Disorder Subdivisions

  • No subdivisions found.

General Discussion

Alternating hemiplegia of childhood (AHC) is a rare neurodevelopmental disorder characterized by repeated episodes of weakness or paralysis that may affect one side of the body or the other (hemiplegia) or both sides of the body at once (quadriplegia). Additional episodic symptoms usually include intermittent abnormal eye movements, episodes of muscle stiffness or posturing (dystonia), and in a substantial percentage of cases, seizures. Delays in attaining developmental milestones (developmental delays), cognitive impairment, and persistent issues with balance and the presence of continuous dance-like movements of limbs or facial muscles (chorea) may occur independently of episodes of paralysis, weakness or stiffness and persist between episodes. The severity of AHC and the specific types of episodes that occur can vary dramatically from one individual to another. First symptoms usually begin before the age of 18 months. AHC is caused by mutations in the ATP1A3 gene in the majority of those affected.

AHC is a rare disorder that was first reported in the medical literature in 1971 by doctors Simon Verret and John C. Steele. They described an unusual disorder in eight children who demonstrated intermittent episodes of weakness, affecting first one side of the body, then the other, with onset in early childhood, including one child who manifested symptoms as early as 3 months of age. However, the disorder remained poorly understood for many years, in part, because of its rarity and complex and highly variable symptoms. More research is necessary to improve early diagnosis, understand the full range of symptoms, and develop more effective treatments. The recent identification of a causative gene for AHC should lead to a better understanding of the disorder and open new avenues for treatment.

Organizations related to Alternating Hemiplegia of Childhood

NORD offers an online community for this rare disease. RareConnect was created by EURORDIS (European Rare Disease Organisation) and NORD (National Organization for Rare Disorders) to provide a safe space where individuals and families affected by rare diseases can connect with each other, share vital experiences, and find helpful information and resources. You can view these international, rare disease communities at www.rareconnect.org.

The information in NORD’s Rare Disease Database is for educational purposes only. It should never be used for diagnostic or treatment purposes. If you have questions regarding a medical condition, always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health professional. NORD’s reports provide a brief overview of rare diseases. For more specific information, we encourage you to contact your personal physician or the agencies listed as “Resources” on this report.

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