Four patients are described, who on clinical, histological, and biochemical criteria are considered to be suffering from neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis. It is suggested that this may be the commonest condition included under the term amaurotic family idiocy. A number of gangliosidoses can be classified on a biochemical basis and considerable advances have been made in identifying the enzyme deficiencies. The aetiology of neuronal ceroid lipofuscinosis is unknown, and it is possible that there is more than one cause.
Visual symptoms and signs are not always present. Though generalized convulsions occur at the start of the illness, myoclonus tends increasingly to dominate the clinical picture. An abnormal sensitivity to photic stimulation at a very slow frequency is a suggestive finding. Evidence of cerebral atrophy on air-encephalography favours this diagnosis, as the brain tends to be enlarged in the gangliosidoses. A definite diagnosis can only be made in life by examination of a cortical biopsy. Biochemical analysis will show a normal ganglioside pattern, and histological examination by light and electron microscopy will reveal characteristic changes.
An age dependent classification of amaurotic family idiocy is no longer justifiable, and if full investigations are carried out, an increasing number of these patients can be diagnosed as suffering from a specific type of disorder.
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