Metabolism is the process your body uses to make energy from the food you eat. Food is made up of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Chemicals in your digestive system (enzymes) 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. If you have a metabolic disorder, something goes wrong with this process.
Lipid metabolism disorders, such as Gaucher disease and Tay-Sachs disease, involve lipids. Lipids are fats or fat-like substances. They include oils, fatty acids, waxes, and cholesterol. If you have one of these disorders, you may not have enough enzymes to break down lipids. Or the enzymes may not work properly and your body can’t convert the fats into energy. They cause a harmful amount of lipids to build up in your body. Over time, that can damage your cells and tissues, especially in the brain, peripheral nervous system, liver, spleen, and bone marrow. Many of these disorders can be very serious, or sometimes even fatal.
These disorders are inherited. Newborn babies get screened for some of them, using blood tests. If there is a family history of one of these disorders, parents can get genetic testing to see whether they carry the gene. Other genetic tests can tell whether the fetus has the disorder or carries the gene for the disorder.
Enzyme replacement therapies can help with a few of these disorders. For others, there is no treatment. Medicines, blood transfusions, and other procedures may help with complications.
Very long-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase (VLCAD) deficiency is a condition that prevents the body from converting certain fats to energy, particularly during periods without food (fasting).Signs and symptoms of VLCAD deficiency typically appear during infancy or early childhood and can include low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), lack of energy (lethargy), and muscle weakness. Affected individuals are also at risk for serious complications such as liver abnormalities and life-threatening heart problems. When symptoms begin in adolescence or adulthood, they tend to be milder and usually do not involve the heart.Problems related to VLCAD deficiency can be triggered by periods of fasting, illness, and exercise. This disorder is sometimes mistaken for Reye syndrome, a severe disorder that may develop in children while they appear to be recovering from viral infections such as chicken pox or flu. Most cases of Reye syndrome are associated with the use of aspirin during these viral infections.