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Metabolism is the process your body uses to get or make energy from the food you eat. Food is made up of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Chemicals in your digestive system break the food parts down into sugars and acids, your body’s fuel. Your body can use this fuel right away, or it can store the energy in your body tissues, such as your liver, muscles, and body fat.

A metabolic disorder occurs when abnormal chemical reactions in your body disrupt this process. When this happens, you might have too much of some substances or too little of other ones that you need to stay healthy. There are different groups of disorders. Some affect the breakdown of amino acids, carbohydrates, or lipids. Another group, mitochondrial diseases, affects the parts of the cells that produce the energy.

You can develop a metabolic disorder when some organs, such as your liver or pancreas, become diseased or do not function normally. Diabetes is an example.

Arginase deficiency is an inherited disorder that causes the amino acid arginine (a building block of proteins) and ammonia to accumulate gradually in the blood. Ammonia, which is formed when proteins are broken down in the body, is toxic if levels become too high. The nervous system is especially sensitive to the effects of excess ammonia.Arginase deficiency usually becomes evident by about the age of 3. It most often appears as stiffness, especially in the legs, caused by abnormal tensing of the muscles (spasticity). Other symptoms may include slower than normal growth, developmental delay and eventual loss of developmental milestones, intellectual disability, seizures, tremor, and difficulty with balance and coordination (ataxia). Occasionally, high protein meals or stress caused by illness or periods without food (fasting) may cause ammonia to accumulate more quickly in the blood. This rapid increase in ammonia may lead to episodes of irritability, refusal to eat, and vomiting.In some affected individuals, signs and symptoms of arginase deficiency may be less severe, and may not appear until later in life.

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