Children and Youth with Special Health Needs (CYSHN)
Very long chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase (VLCAD)
- What is VLCAD?
- What causes VLCAD?
- What causes the VLCAD enzyme to be absent or not working correctly?
- How is VLCAD inherited?
- Is genetic testing available?
- What other testing is available?
- Can you test during pregnancy?
- Can other members of the family have VLCAD or be carriers?
- Can other family members be tested?
- How many people have VLCAD?
- Does VLCAD happen more often in a certain ethnic group?
- Does VLCAD go by any other names?
- What is the treatment for VLCAD?
- What happens when VLCAD is treated?
- If VLCAD is not treated, what problems occur?
This fact sheet has general information about VLCAD. Every child is different and some of this information may not apply to your child specifically. Certain treatments may be recommended for some children but not others. Children with VLCAD should be followed by a metabolic doctor in addition to their primary doctor.
What is VLCAD?
VLCAD stands for "very long chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase deficiency". It is one type of fatty acid oxidation disorder. People with VLCAD have problems breaking down certain types of fat into energy for the body.
Fatty Acid Oxidation Disorders:
Fatty acid oxidation disorders (FAODs) are a group of rare inherited conditions. They are caused by enzymes that do not work properly.
A number of enzymes are needed to break down fats in the body (a process called fatty acid oxidation). Problems with any of these enzymes can cause a fatty acid oxidation disorder. People with FAODs cannot properly break down fat from either the food they eat or from fat stored in their bodies.
The symptoms and treatment vary between different FAODs. They can also vary from person to person with the same FAOD. See the fact sheets for each specific FAOD.
FAODs are inherited in an autosomal recessive manner and affect both males and females.
What causes VLCAD?
VLCAD occurs when an enzyme, called "very long chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase" (VLCAD) is either missing or not working properly. This enzyme's job is to break down certain fats from the food we eat into energy. It also breaks down fat already stored in the body.
Energy from fat keeps us going whenever our bodies run low of their main source of energy, a type of sugar called glucose. Our bodies rely on fat when we don't eat for a stretch of time - like when we miss a meal or when we sleep.
When the VLCAD enzyme is missing or not working, the body cannot break down fat for energy and must rely solely on glucose. Although glucose is a good source of energy, there is a limited amount available. Once the glucose has been used up, the body tries to use fat without success. This leads to low blood sugar, called hypoglycemia, and to the build up of harmful substances in the blood.
What causes the VLCAD enzyme to be absent or not working correctly?
Genes tell the body to make various enzymes. People with VLCAD have a pair of genes that do not work correctly. Because of the changes in this pair of genes, the VLCAD enzyme either does not work properly or is not made at all.
How is VLCAD inherited?
VLCAD is inherited in an autosomal recessive manner. It affects both boys and girls equally.
Everyone has a pair of genes that make the VLCAD enzyme. In children with VLCAD, neither of these genes works correctly. These children inherit one non-working gene for the condition from each parent.
Parents of children with VLCAD are rarely affected with the disorder. Instead, each parent has a single non-working gene for VLCAD. They are called carriers. Carriers do not have VLCAD because the other gene of this pair is working correctly.
When both parents are carriers, there is a 25% chance in each pregnancy for the child to have VLCAD. There is a 50% chance for the child to be a carrier, just like the parents. And, there is a 25% chance for the child to have two working genes.
Genetic counseling is available to families who have children with VLCAD. Genetic counselors can answer your questions about how VLCAD is inherited, options during future pregnancies, and how to test other family members. Ask your doctor about a referral to a genetic counselor.
Is there genetic testing available?
Genetic testing for VLCAD can be done on a blood sample. Genetic testing, also called DNA testing, looks for changes in the pair of genes that causes VLCAD. Talk with your metabolic doctor or genetic counselor about whether DNA testing for VLCAD would be helpful to you.
DNA testing is usually not necessary to diagnose your child. It can be helpful for carrier testing or prenatal diagnosis, discussed below.
What other testing is available?
VLCAD can be confirmed by a special test called a "fatty acid oxidation probe" using a skin sample. Talk to your doctor or genetic counselor if you have questions about testing for VLCAD.
Yes, it is possible to test for VLCAD during pregnancy. The sample needed for this test is obtained by either CVS or amniocentesis.
Parents may either choose to have testing during pregnancy or wait until birth to have the baby tested. A genetic counselor can talk to you about your choices and answer other questions you may have about prenatal testing or testing your baby after birth.
Can other members of the family have VLCAD or be carriers?
The brothers and sisters of a baby with VLCAD have a chance of being affected, even if they haven't had symptoms. Finding out whether other children in the family have VLCAD is important because early treatment may prevent serious health problems. Talk to your doctor or genetic counselor about testing your other children for VLCAD.
Brothers and sisters who do not have VLCAD still have a chance to be carriers like their parents. Except in special cases, carrier testing should only be done in people over 18 years of age.
Each of the parents' brothers and sisters has a 50% chance to be a VLCAD carrier. It is important for other family members to be told that they could be carriers. There is a small chance they are also at risk to have children with VLCAD.
When both parents are carriers, newborn screening results are not sufficient to rule out VLCAD in a newborn baby. In this case, special diagnostic testing should be done in addition to newborn screening.
During pregnancy, women carrying fetuses with VLCAD may be at increased risk to develop serious medical problems. A small number of women are known to have developed:
- excessive vomiting
- abdominal pain
- high blood pressure
- abnormal fat storage in the liver
- severe bleeding
All women with a family history of VLCAD should share this information with their obstetricians and other health care providers before and during any future pregnancies. Knowing about these risks allows early treatment.
Can other family members be tested?
Brothers and sisters of a child with VLCAD can have special testing to check for this disorder. Ask you metabolic doctor whether your other children should be tested for VLCAD.
Carrier testing may be available to other family members. Your metabolic doctor or genetic counselor can advise you about carrier testing.
How many people have VLCAD?
VLCAD is thought to be a rare disorder. The actual incidence is unknown.
Does VLCAD happen more frequently in a certain ethnic group?
No, VLCAD does not happen more often in any specific race, ethnic group, geographical area or country.
Does VLCAD go by any other names?
VLCAD is sometimes also called:
- ACADVL deficiency
What is the treatment for VLCAD?
Your baby's primary doctor will work with a metabolic doctor to care for your child. Your doctor may also suggest that you meet with a dietician familiar with VLCAD.
Certain treatments may be advised for some children but not others. When necessary, treatment is usually needed throughout life. The following are treatments often recommended for children with VLCAD:
Avoid going a long time without food
Your metabolic doctor will continue to advise you on how often your child should eat as he or she gets older. When they are well, many teens and adults with VLCAD can go without food for up to 12 hours without problems. The other treatments usually need to be continued throughout life.
People with VLCAD cannot use certain building blocks of fat called "long chain fatty acids";. Your dietician can help create a food plan low in these fats. Much of the rest of fat in the diet may be in the form of medium chain fatty acids.
Ask your doctor whether your child needs to have any changes in his or her diet.
MCT oil and L-carnitine
Do not use any medication or supplement without checking with your doctor.
Call your doctor at the start of any illness
Children with VLCAD need to eat extra starchy food and drink more fluids during any illness - even if they may not feel hungry - or they could develop hypoglycemia or a metabolic crisis. When they become sick, children with VLCAD often need to be treated in the hospital to prevent serious health problems.
Ask your metabolic doctor if you should carry a special travel letter with medical instructions for your child's care.
Avoid prolonged exercise or exertion.
If muscle symptoms happen, prompt treatment is needed to prevent kidney damage. Children and adults with muscle symptoms should:
To help prevent muscle symptoms:
With prompt and careful treatment, people with the childhood and adult forms of VLCAD can often live healthy lives with typical growth and development. Before diagnosis through newborn screening was available, the early form of VLCAD was fatal. Now, with immediate and ongoing treatment, many infants with VLCAD are surviving.
If VLCAD is not treated, what problems occur?
VLCAD is variable and can cause mild effects in some people and more serious health problems in others. Symptoms may start in infancy or not until adulthood. There are three forms of VLCAD: "Early", "Childhood" and "Adult".It is common for babies and children with the early and childhood types of VLCAD to have episodes of illness called metabolic crises. Some of the first symptoms of a metabolic crisis are:
- extreme sleepiness
- behavior changes
- irritable mood
- poor appetite
Some of these other symptoms may also follow:
If a metabolic crisis is not treated, a child with VLCAD can develop:
- breathing problems
- coma, sometimes leading to death
Periods of hypoglycemia can happen with or without the other symptoms. Hypoglycemia can cause a child to feel weak, shaky or dizzy with clammy, cold skin. If not treated, it can lead to coma, and possibly death.
Either hypoglycemia or a full metabolic crisis can occur:
- after going too long without food
- during illness or infection
- after heavy exercise
Symptoms of early and childhood VLCAD often happen after a period of having nothing to eat for more than a few hours. Symptoms are also more likely when a child with VLCAD gets sick or has an infection.
About half of babies diagnosed with VLCAD have the "early" type. They usually start to show effects between birth and 4 months. In addition to metabolic crises, babies can also have:
- enlarged heart, irregular heartbeat and other heart problems
- enlarged liver and other liver problems
- muscle problems
If not treated, babies with early VLCAD usually die young.
About one third of people with VLCAD have the childhood type. They usually show symptoms in late infancy or early childhood. Episodes of hypoglycemia or full metabolic crisis happen during illness or after long periods of not eating. Other effects can include:
- enlarged liver
- other liver problems
- muscle weakness, especially after exercise
Heart problems are usually not seen in childhood VLCAD.
Some children with VLCAD have never had symptoms and are only found to be affected after a brother or sister has been diagnosed.
About one fifth of people with VLCAD have the adult type. They usually show symptoms starting in the teen years or in adulthood. Periods of muscle weakness are common. Breakdown of muscle fibers can occur. This usually happens during heavy exercise or after going without food for a long period of time.
Signs of muscle breakdown are:
- muscle aches
- reddish-brown color to the urine.
Adults with muscle symptoms who do not get treatment can develop kidney failure.
People with the adult form of VLCAD usually do not have heart problems, hypoglycemia or metabolic crises.
Where can I find more information?
Minnesota Family Support for Fatty Acid Oxidation Disorder (FAOD) Contact: email@example.com
Medically Prescribed Formula: a table that provides a list of commonly prescribed medical foods and formulas and /or medication for this disorder.
Fatty Oxidation Disorders (FOD) Family Support Group
United Mitochondrial Disease Foundation
Children Living with Inherited Metabolic Diseases (CLIMB)
For additional genetics information and resources:
- Genetic Alliance
- Region 4 Genetics Collaborative
- Partnering with your Doctor The Medical Home Approach: A guide for families with children who have genetic conditions - The Guide is intended to be a user-friendly, hands-on tool to support families of children who have genetic conditions to move forward in obtaining and providing a medical home for their children. The guide provides definitions, examples and tools for families to use when working with the doctor to develop a medical home.
More help available from Children and Youth with Special Health Needs (CYSHN):
- Resources: Financial and Other
- Early Childhood Intervention
- Resources for Children and Families
- Youth and Young Adults - Planning for the Future
- Emergency Planning
- Medical Home
We would like to acknowledge the Star G Project. The information on the fact sheet was obtained from the Star G Project. For the most up-to-date information on the disorder please visit their web site at http://www.newbornscreening.info. Each fact sheet was extensively reviewed by family support groups, metabolic specialists across the country and the Star G steering committee.
THIS INFORMATION DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. All content, including text, graphics, images and information are for general informational purposes only. You are encouraged to confer with your doctor or other health care professional with regard to information contained on this information sheet. After reading this information sheet, you are encouraged to review the information carefully with your doctor or other healthcare provider. The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. NEVER DISREGARD PROFESSIONAL MEDICAL ADVICE, OR DELAY IN SEEKING IT, BECAUSE OF SOMETHING YOU HAVE READ ON THIS INFORMATION SHEET.
|Updated Wednesday, 01-Aug-2012 13:57:49 CDT|