Progeria (pro-JEER-e-uh), also known as Hutchinson-Gilford syndrome, is an extremely rare, progressive genetic disorder that causes children to age rapidly, beginning in their first two years of life.

Children with progeria generally appear normal at birth. During the first year, signs and symptoms, such as slow growth and hair loss, begin to appear.

Heart problems or strokes are the eventual cause of death in most children with progeria. The average life expectancy for a child with progeria is about 13 years, but some with the disease die younger and some live 20 years or longer.

There's no cure for progeria, but ongoing research shows some promise for treatment.

Symptoms Causes Complications

Usually within the first year of life, growth of a child with progeria slows markedly, but motor development and intelligence remain normal.

Signs and symptoms of this progressive disorder include a distinctive appearance:

  • Slowed growth, with below-average height and weight
  • Narrowed face, small lower jaw, thin lips and beaked nose
  • Head disproportionately large for face
  • Prominent eyes and incomplete closure of the eyelids
  • Hair loss, including eyelashes and eyebrows
  • Thinning, spotty, wrinkled skin
  • Visible veins
  • High-pitched voice

Signs and symptoms also include health issues:

  • Hardening and tightening of skin on trunk and extremities (similar to scleroderma)
  • Delayed and abnormal tooth formation
  • Some hearing loss
  • Loss of fat under the skin and loss of muscle mass
  • Fragile bones
  • Stiff joints
  • Hip dislocation
  • Insulin resistance
  • Severe progressive heart and blood vessel (cardiovascular) disease

When to see a doctor

Call for an appointment with your doctor if your child does not appear to be growing or developing normally, including problems with hair loss, skin changes or slowed growth.

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