Mitochondria create over 90 percent of the energy that is used to perform bodily functions that keep us alive. When the mitochondria malfunction, mitochondrial diseases develop. These diseases occur primarily in children.
Children with a mitochondrial disease will have muscle weakness, be uncoordinated and have vision and hearing problems.
The cause of mitochondrial diseases is usually genetics. Children who have a mitochondrial disease might have genes for the disease inherited from a parent.
To identify whether or not a child has a mitochondrial disease, a doctor will perform a family history, a physical and a neurological exam. The doctor will collect blood and urine samples and conduct an MRI.
There is no cure for mitochondrial diseases, but treatments reduce symptoms in some children. These treatments are vitamins, enzymes, antioxidants and dietary changes.
The prognosis for children living with a mitochondrial disease varies for each child. With the proper treatment, the disease may progress slowly with minimal symptoms.