November 5, 2009

Nightmares and a Negative Test Result

The past few nights Bertrand has been having nightmares. Last night was particularly bad with Bertrand just wanting to be held as he fell back asleep, not put back to bed. Because Keppra may cause nightmares and psychotic episodes in a small number of children, it could be tempting to blame the medication. However, Matthew and I would rather view the nightmares as a sign of progress!--that Bertrand is now cognizant enough to have fears and, therefore, have nightmares. :) Naturally, we will be keeping an eye on the nightmare trend just in case it is a side effect of the medication, but normal children his age have nightmares, so why shouldn't he?

Today I spoke with the amazing Kelly Schoch, Bertrand's genetic counselor at Duke University. Bertrand received a negative test result for a mutation in the AAAS gene. A mutation in the AAAS gene is responsible for 50% of the cases of clinical Allgrove syndrome. While a negative result doesn't rule out Allgrove, Matthew and I aren't interested in chasing down this rabbit hole unless Bertrand begins to exhibit at least one other hallmark symptom (such as achalasia or adrenal insufficiency) in addition to the alacrima. Dr. Stratakis, the world expert on Allgrove syndrome at the NIH, said Bertrand doesn't have Allgrove, so for now, that is fine by me.

One additional option for genetic testing which Kelly presented involves the SCN1A gene. It's crazy how these gene designations are starting to make sense to me, but of course the SCN1A involves sodium channels. (I must of read about it somewhere because it is too weird that this was my first guess.) It is associated with a large range of hereditary seizure disorders and even some hereditary migraines. Duke has a stored sample of Bertrand's DNA, so sending out for the test would technically be easy. However, given that all genetic tests are not cheap, we need to ask, what is the point in knowing this SCN1A result?

For family planning? Not really, because no one else has epilepsy in our families. Bertrand is still most likely a de novo (new) mutation, so it wouldn't be inherited by any of our other children. For treatment? Not really, because we're already implementing the ketogenic diet and treating the seizures in the same way one would in the case of a SCN1A mutation (with liver issues). For plain old knowledge? Bertrand is our son and we love him more than anything in the world--that's all the knowlege we need. No test result will change that.

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