Alport syndrome is an inherited disorder that leads to kidney damage.
Alport syndrome is an inherited form of kidney inflammation (nephritis). It's caused by a mutation in a gene for a protein in connective tissue, called collagen.
The disorder is uncommon, and most often affects males. Women can transmit the gene for the disorder to their children, even if they have no symptoms.
Risk factors include:
- End-stage kidney disease in male relatives
- Family history of Alport syndrome
- Hearing loss before age 30
The disorder damages the tiny blood vessels in the kidneys, called glomeruli, that filter wastes.
At first, there are no symptoms. Then the progressive destruction of the glomeruli leads to blood in the urine and decreases the effectiveness of the kidney's filtering system. There is a progressive loss of kidney function and a build-up of fluids and wastes in the body.
In women, the disorder is usually mild, with minimal or no symptoms. In men, the symptoms are more severe and get worse faster.
- Abnormal urine color
- Ankle, feet, and leg swelling
- Blood in the urine
- Decrease or loss of vision, more common in males
- Loss of hearing, more common in males
- Swelling around the eyes
- Swelling, overall
The condition can progress to end-stage renal disease (ESRD) at an early age (between adolescence and age 40).
Note: There may be no symptoms in some cases. Symptoms of chronic kidney failure or heart failure may be present or may develop.
The goals of treatment include monitoring and controlling progression of the disease and treating the symptoms. Most important is to strictly control high blood pressure.
Treatment of chronic renal failure will become necessary. This may include dietary modifications, fluid restriction, and other treatments. Ultimately, chronic renal failure progresses to end-stage renal disease, requiring dialysis or transplantation.
Surgical repair of cataracts (cataract extraction), or repair of the anterior lenticonus in the eye is possible.
Loss of hearing is likely to be permanent. Counseling and education to increase coping skills can be helpful. Learning new skills such as lip reading or sign language may be of some benefit. Hearing aids are helpful. Young men with Alport syndrome should use hearing protection in noisy environments.
Genetic counseling may be recommended because of the inherited pattern of the disorder.
Women usually have a normal life span with no signs of the disease except for blood in the urine. Rarely, women will have high blood pressure, swelling, and nerve deafness as a complication of pregnancy.
In men, deafness, visual difficulties, and kidney failure are likely by age 50.
This uncommon disorder is inherited. Awareness of risk factors, such as a family history of the disorder, may allow the condition to be detected early.