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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.
Ornithine transcarbamylase deficiency is an inherited disorder that causes ammonia to accumulate in the blood. Ammonia, which is formed when proteins are broken down in the body, is toxic if the levels become too high. The nervous system is especially sensitive to the effects of excess ammonia.Ornithine transcarbamylase deficiency can become evident at any age. The most severe form occurs in the first few days of life. This neonatal-onset form of the disorder usually affects males; it is very rare in females. An infant with the neonatal-onset form of ornithine transcarbamylase deficiency may be lacking in energy (lethargic) or unwilling to eat, and have a poorly-controlled breathing rate or body temperature. Infants with this disorder may be described as “floppy” and can experience seizures or coma. Complications from ornithine transcarbamylase deficiency may include developmental delay and intellectual disability. Progressive liver damage may also occur.In some affected individuals, signs and symptoms of ornithine transcarbamylase deficiency may be less severe, and may not appear until later in life. The late-onset form of the disorder occurs in both males and females. People with late-onset ornithine transcarbamylase deficiency may experience episodes of altered mental status, such as delirium, erratic behavior, or a reduced level of consciousness. Headaches, vomiting, aversion to protein foods, and seizures can also occur in this form of the disorder.