Leigh's Disease

Leigh’s Disease is a rare, inherited neurodegenerative disorder caused by a defect in the function of mitochondria within the cells of the body. Mitochondria are responsible for creating more than 90% of the energy needed by the body to sustain life and support growth. When they fail, less and less energy is generated within the cells The infant first is unable to absorb food, and thus cannot grow and gain weight as expected (failure to thrive). Progressive damage to the central nervous system may lead to loss of mental and motor ability. There is no cure yet for Leigh’s Disease, but some experimental therapies are showing promise for treatment in some affected children.

How Palliative Care Can Help

Pediatric palliative care is all of the specialized care not directed at treating the disease itself. Depending on the patient, it might include consultations with a child life specialist, social worker, nurse and/or nurse practitioner, music therapist, massage therapist, occupational therapist, etc. In short, palliative care is designed to provide relief from the symptoms, pain, and psychological and emotional stress of serious illness-whatever the diagnosis. The goals are to promote quality of life for the child, and to ensure that families are active in the child’s treatment, so that medical decisions are patient- and family-focused.

Palliative care is often confused with hospice and end-of-life care. It is intended for children and families living with a life-threatening or terminal condition, but pediatric palliative care is NOT hospice. In fact, palliative care is appropriate for any stage of the illness and can be delivered along with disease directed curative treatments.

Palliative care providers recommend that treatment begin as early as possible in the illness journey. Integrative care that includes palliative medicine can begin at diagnosis.

Ask your pediatrician to recommend a palliative care provider. You may also visit the Center to Advance Palliative Care (CAPC) website, which includes a directory of palliative care providers and hospitals by state.

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