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Alternative namesNF1; vonRecklinghausen neurofibromatosis
DefinitionNeurofibromatosis-1 is an inherited disorder characterized by formation of neurofibromas (tumors involving nerve tissue) in the skin, subcutaneous tissue, cranial nerves, and spinal root nerves.
Causes, incidence, and risk factorsNF1 is an autosomal dominant trait, meaning that if either parent has NF1, their children have a 50% chance of inheriting the disease. NF1 also appears in families with no previous history of the condition, as a result of a new genetic mutation in the particular sperm or egg that created the child. NF1 is caused by abnormalities in one of the genes encoding a protein called neurofibromin.
Neurofibromatosis causes unchecked growth of neurofibromatous tissue in nerves, which can put pressure on affected nerves and cause pain and severe nerve damage. This leads to loss of function in the area served by the nerve. Problems with sensation or movement can occur as a result, depending on the particular nerves affected.
SymptomsSymptoms can be extremely varied, depending on the age of the patient and severity of the disease.
Symptoms may include:
Signs and tests
The diagnosis of neurofibromatosis is generally made based on physical findings. The cafe-au-lait spot (meaning literally the color of coffee with cream) is the hallmark of neurofibromatosis. Although many normal people have 1 or 2 small cafe-au-lait spots, adults with 6 or more spots greater than 1.5 cm in diameter are likely to have neurofibromatosis.
Other signs include:
There is no specific treatment for neurofibromatosis. Tumors that cause pain or loss of function are removed on an individual basis. Tumors that have grown rapidly should be removed promptly as they may become malignant. Experimental treatments for severe tumors are under investigation.
Special schooling for those with learning disorders and/or attention-deficit disorder may be required in some cases. Annual eye exams are strongly recommended.
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The life expectancy of people with neurofibromatosis is almost normal, barring complications. Although mental impairment is generally mild, NF1 is a known cause of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder in a minority of patients.
With appropriate education and job expectations, people with neurofibromatosis can live a normal life. Some individuals manifest hundreds of tumors on their skin and are subject to stigmatization by society because of the way they look.
Patients with neurofibromatosis have an increased chance of developing severe tumors which, rarely, can shorten life span.
Calling your health care providerCall your health care provider if you notice cream-with-coffee colored spots on your child's skin or any of the signs listed here, or if you have a family history of neurofibromatosis and would like your child examined. Also, call if anyone in your family has had a neurofibroma removed and you are planning children.
PreventionGenetic counseling is recommended for anyone with a family history of neurofibromatosis.
Update Date: 11/7/2002David G. Brooks, M.D., Ph.D., Division of Medical Genetics, University of Pennsylvania Medical Center, Philadelphia, PA. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network.
Last updated: Tue, 06 Jan 2009 00:20:03 GMT