What are metabolic disorders?

Metabolism is the breaking down of food to its simpler components: proteins, carbohydrates (or sugars), and fats. Metabolic disorders occur when these normal processes become disrupted. Disorders in metabolism can be inherited, in which case they are also known as inborn errors of metabolism, or they may be acquired during your lifetime. Many metabolic disorders exist, and they are common in the United States. For, instance, diabetes is metabolic disease that affects approximately 26 million Americans (Source: CDC).

Phenylketonuria is an example of an inherited metabolic disorder characterized by an inability to break down one of the building blocks of protein, the amino acid phenylalanine. Type I diabetes, a disease in which the pancreas does not create enough insulin to maintain balanced blood sugar levels, is a metabolic disorder of sugar metabolism. An example of a metabolic disorder affecting fat metabolism is Gaucher’s disease, which is characterized by a lack of the of the enzyme glucocerebrosidase. Metabolic disorders can also be complications of severe diseases or conditions, including liver or respiratory failure, cancer, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD, includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis), and HIV/AIDS.

Symptoms of metabolic disorders will vary among individuals and by the type of disorder. Some metabolic disorders result in mild symptoms that can be managed with medication and lifestyle changes, while others can cause severe and life-threatening symptoms, such as breathing problems, seizure, and organ failure. Some inherited metabolic disorders can require long-term nutritional supplementation and treatment, while metabolic disorders that arise as a result of another disease or condition often resolve once the underlying condition is treated.

Seek immediate medical care (call 911) for serious symptoms, such as severe difficulty breathing; bluish coloration of the lips or fingernails; seizure; and change in level of consciousness or alertness, such as passing out or unresponsiveness.

Seek prompt medical care if you are being treated for metabolic disorders but mild symptoms recur or are persistent.

SYMPTOMS

What are the symptoms of metabolic disorders?

Metabolic disorders cause disturbances in the normal chemical processes in the body and will result in different symptoms, depending on the particular disorder. The symptoms can vary in intensity among individuals.... Read more about metabolic disorderssymptoms

CAUSES

What causes metabolic disorders?

Metabolic disorders develop when normal metabolic processes are disturbed. Normally, food is broken down by the body into simpler components (proteins, fats and sugars) in a highly regulated manner. Metabolic disorders are defined by a breakdown in any one of the steps of this complex process. Disorders in metabolism can be inherited, in which case they are known as inborn errors of metabolism, or they may be acquired. They may also occur as complications of other serious diseases, such as liver or respiratory failure, cancer, end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD, includes emphysema and chronic bronchitis), and HIV/AIDS.... Read more about metabolic disorderscauses

TREATMENTS

How are metabolic disorders treated?

Treatment for metabolic disorders begins with seeking medical care from your health care provider. The treatment approach for metabolic disorders depends on the specific disorder. Inborn errors of metabolism (inherited metabolic disorders) are often treated with nutritional counseling and support, periodic assessment, physical therapy, and other supportive care options. Acquired metabolic disorder treatment will include normalizing the metabolic balance by both reversing the cause and administering medications.... Read more about metabolic disorderstreatments

Medical Reviewer: All content has been reviewed by board-certified physicians under the direction of Rich Klasco, M.D., FACEP. Last Annual Review Date: May 2, 2011 Copyright: © Copyright 2011 Health Grades, Inc. All rights reserved. May not be reproduced or reprinted without permission from Health Grades, Inc. Use of this information is governed by the HealthGrades User Agreement.

This Article is Filed Under: Metabolic System