A nine-year-old Michigan girl, Kathleen Edward, succumbed to a rare form of an incurable brain disorder called Huntington's Disease (HD), on Wednesday, at her home in Wyandotte.
Edward suffered from the condition for two years prior to her death; her mother, Laura Edward and grandfather died of the same illness, two years ago.
The little girl made headlines recently, following reports that she had been bullied and taunted by neighbors. She was targeted both online (via social networking sites) and directly (people left skeletons and gravestones in the yard of her home).
According to the HD Society of America, one in every 10,000 Americans suffer from the disease and approximately 200,000 people in the U.S. are at risk of developing the condition, according to a study.
The condition is degenerative in nature and hence every child or adolescent whose parents have HD, has a 50 percent chance of inheriting and acquiring the same.
HD is a devastating brain disorder that has, till date, no cure.
It usually occurs in adults between the ages of 30 and 50. However, should a child or juvenile develop the condition, they are unlikely to survive into adulthood.
In scientific terms, it is a genetic disorder caused by a defect in chromosome 4 in human DNA. In affected patients the chromosome repetition is more than three times the normal count. The disease gets worse with time, as the patient suffers from a loss of judgment, memory, personality and speech changes, as well as anxiety and disorientation.
Five Other Genetic Disorders That Might Strike Children at an Early Age:
1. Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease
It is a rare and often fatal brain disease that leads to visual disturbances, blindness, extreme behavioral changes and memory lapse in the affected individual. According to National Institute of Neurological Disorder and Stroke, the disease strikes one in a million children and the victim usually dies within a year of its onset.
2. Down's Syndrome
Down's syndrome is a state of chromosomal disorder in which the individual suffers from intellectual disorders, heart defects and gastrointestinal malformations and characteristic facial features.
In scientific terms, the syndrome occurs due to the presence of three extra copies of chromosome 21 in the DNA instead of normal two. It is a very common genetic disorder and one in every 800 child suffers from it.
3. Menkes Disease
Yet another disease caused by a defect in the child's gene is called Menkes. It strikes infants inside the first six to eight weeks of their life. Once detected, the patient must undergo treatment throughout his/her lifetime. If it remains undetected, at an early stage, there is a chance the child may not live past the age of 10.
4. Batten's Disease
It is a rare condition that can affect up to four children per 100,000 children in the U.S. alone. Batten's diseases usually affects children between the ages of 5 and 10 and once affected, the chances are the child will not grow up to be an adult. The disease is characterized by the progressive loss of eyesight and seizures. Worse still, there is no guaranteed medical treatment option.
5. Cystic Fibrosis
Cystic fibrosis is an inherited gene disorder that leads to infections in lungs. Statistics show a staggering number of people are affected by this in the U.S. The disease is usually diagnosed by the age of two but persons suffering from cystic fibrosis hardly live past the age of 37.