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Last Updated: Monday, 29 May 2006, 23:01 GMT 00:01 UK
Early stroke cause 'discovered'
The hands of someone who has had a stroke
Stroke can cause paralysis
A rare genetic disorder is the cause of some strokes in young people, German researchers have said.

Scientists in Rostock found 4% of over 700 people aged 18 to 55 years who had a stroke also had Fabry disease.

And strokes occurred about a decade earlier in people with the condition, the study presented to the European Stroke Congress in Brussels, found.

Experts said the findings only applied to a small number of people but did highlight a treatable cause of stroke.

Fabry disease is caused by a missing or faulty enzyme needed by the body to process oils, waxes, and fatty acids.

These lipids build up to harmful levels in the eyes, kidneys, nervous system, and cardiovascular system.

People with the disease can die prematurely because of renal, cardiac or cerebrovascular complications.

But the condition's progress can be slowed using enzyme replacement treatment.

'Need for screening'

Researchers from the University of Rostock carried out genetic screening of over 700 adults suffering from unexplained stroke to see if they had Fabry disease.

As a potentially treatable and preventable cause, Fabry disease is one that all doctors involved in treating stroke patients should be aware of
Dr Anthony Rudd
King's College London

None had the typical risk factors for stroke, such as smoking or being severely obesity.

It was found that nearly 5% of the male stroke patients and just over 2% of the female patients had gene linked to Fabry disease.

The scientists suggest this could mean that one in 100 of all young people suffering from stroke may have Fabry disease.

This study also found the average age for a man with Fabry disease to have a stroke was 38, while for women with the disease it was 40.

For men and women who did not have Fabry disease, the average age at which they had a stroke was 48.

Professor Arndt Rolfs, who led the study, said: "These data show that Fabry disease must be considered as a potential cause of a cryptogenic [unexplained] stroke in young people, and may be more common than previously thought.

"This is a new and important consideration for healthcare professionals managing young people with stroke, and may indicate a need for screening for Fabry disease in this patient population."

A further pan-European study will screen a bigger group of patients between the age 18-55 years old with stroke to see if they have Fabry disease.

'Search for a reason'

Dr Antony Rudd, a stroke specialist at King's College London, said: "This is interesting research, but Fabry disease is still only likely to be responsible for a small proportion of strokes even in young people.

"However, as a potentially treatable and preventable cause, it is one that all doctors involved in treating stroke patients should be aware of."

Dr Isabel Lee, of the UK's Stroke Association, said: "Stroke is the UK's third biggest killer and we recognise the importance of research into Fabry disease in the search for a reason for unexplained strokes in younger people.

"The results presented in this study show that the incidence of Fabry disease in younger stroke survivors is higher than first thought and further research must be carried out to determine whether preventative measures could be taken."


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