Rett Syndrome

Autism Spectrum Disorder/ Genetic Disorder

In The US: About 37,500 cases.

Also Called:
Autism-Dementia-Ataxia-Loss of Purposeful Hand Use Syndrome, Rett Disorder, RTS, RTT

Mayo Clinic

U.S. National Library of Medicine




Rett syndrome is a neurodevelopmenal disorder that affects girls almost exclusively. It is characterized by normal early growth and development followed by a slowing of development, loss of purposeful use of the hands, distinctive hand movements, slowed brain and head growth, problems with walking, seizures, and intellectual disability.

The disorder was identified by Dr. Andreas Rett, an Austrian physician who first described it in a journal article in 1966. It was not until after a second article about the disorder, published in 1983 by Swedish researcher Dr. Bengt Hagberg, that the disorder was generally recognized.

The course of Rett syndrome, including the age of onset and the severity of symptoms, varies from child to child. Before the symptoms begin, however, the child generally appears to grow and develop normally, although there are often subtle abnormalities even in early infancy, such as loss of muscle tone (hypotonia), difficulty feeding, and jerkiness in limb movements. Then, gradually, mental and physical symptoms appear. As the syndrome progresses, the child loses purposeful use of her hands and the ability to speak. Other early symptoms may include problems crawling or walking and diminished eye contact. The loss of functional use of the hands is followed by compulsive hand movements such as wringing and washing. The onset of this period of regression is sometimes sudden.

Apraxia — the inability to perform motor functions — is perhaps the most severely disabling feature of Rett syndrome, interfering with every body movement, including eye gaze and speech.

Children with Rett syndrome often exhibit autistic-like behaviors in the early stages. Other symptoms may include walking on the toes, sleep problems, a wide-based gait, teeth grinding and difficulty chewing, slowed growth, seizures, cognitive disabilities, and breathing difficulties while awake such as hyperventilation, apnea (breath holding), and air swallowing.

Rett Syndrome In The News

Kupuna Caregiver: Wanda Ginden

Read More    published: 05/07/2018

Ed Sheeran Gives Terminally Ill 11-Year-Old a Signed Guitar to Help Raise Money for Family

Read More    published: 03/04/2018

Hollywood Wants You to #ReverseRett By Wearing Your Shirt Backwards

Read More    published: 10/31/2017

‘I Don’t Know What’s Hurting My Daughter, and That’s So Hard’

Read More    published: 04/02/2017

Lynne Marie is crowned Kildare carer of the year 2016

Read More    published: 11/08/2016

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