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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.
Cerebrotendinous xanthomatosis is a disorder characterized by abnormal storage of fats (lipids) in many areas of the body. People with this disorder cannot break down certain lipids effectively, specifically different forms of cholesterol, so these fats accumulate in the body in the form of fatty yellow nodules called xanthomas. These xanthomas are most commonly found in the brain and in connective tissue called tendons that attach muscle to bone, which is reflected in the condition name (cerebro- meaning brain and -tendinous referring to tendons).People with cerebrotendinous xanthomatosis often develop neurological problems in early adulthood that are thought to be caused by an abnormal accumulation of fats and an increasing number of xanthomas in the brain. These neurological problems include recurrent seizures (epilepsy), movement disorders, impaired speech (dysarthria), loss of sensation in the arms and legs (peripheral neuropathy), decline in intellectual function (dementia), hallucinations, and depression. Xanthomas can accumulate in the fatty substance that insulates and protects nerves (myelin), causing the destruction of myelin and disrupting nerve signaling in the brain. Degeneration (atrophy) of brain tissue caused by excess lipid deposits also contributes to the neurological problems.Xanthomas in the tendons begin to form in early adulthood. The most common areas for xanthomas to develop are tendons in the hands, elbows, knees, neck, and in the Achilles tendon, which connects the heel of the foot to the calf muscles in the leg. Tendon xanthomas may cause discomfort and interfere with tendon flexibility. While many affected people develop tendon xanthomas, these nodules may not be easily visible underneath the skin.Other features of cerebrotendinous xanthomatosis include clouding of the lenses of the eyes (cataracts) and chronic diarrhea in childhood; a reduced ability to produce and release a digestive fluid called bile (cholestasis), which can lead to a yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes (jaundice); and progressively brittle bones that are prone to fracture (osteoporosis). People with cerebrotendinous xanthomatosis are also at an increased risk of developing cardiovascular disease or respiratory failure because of lipid accumulation in the heart or lungs, respectively. If untreated, the signs and symptoms related to cerebrotendinous xanthomatosis worsen over time; however, this condition varies greatly among those who are affected.