Inborn Errors Of Metabolism

Inborn errors of metabolism (IEMs) are a group of genetic disorders that affect the body's ability to break down and convert nutrients into energy. These conditions can cause serious, life-threatening medical problems if left undiagnosed or untreated.

IEMs can be congenital, meaning they are present from birth, or acquired later in life due to dietary deficiencies.

Early detection and treatment are essential for the well-being of those affected by these metabolic disorders. With an understanding of their causes, symptoms, and treatments, IEMs can be managed more effectively.

What causes inborn errors of metabolism?

Inborn errors of metabolism are caused by genetic mutations that occur in the body. These mutations affect the body’s ability to break down and convert food into energy, leading to problems such as an inability to absorb certain nutrients.

Other causes include a deficiency of enzymes involved in particular metabolic pathways or a defect in a specific organ, such as the liver or pancreas.

Additionally, some errors may be caused by toxic accumulation from environmental pollutants or drugs.

Finally, although rare, there is evidence that some metabolic disorders can be triggered by viruses.

What are the symptoms of inborn errors of metabolism?

Inborn errors of metabolism can manifest in a variety of symptoms, such as poor appetite and weight gain, tiredness, difficulty sleeping, delayed growth, frequent infections, learning difficulties, or behavioural issues.

Urine may become foamy or contain an unusual odour. Other symptoms can include seizures, facial abnormalities, hearing loss, or vision problems.

In some cases, there may be organ dysfunction, which can lead to breathing difficulties, an enlarged liver or spleen, heart murmurs, and/or jaundice. In severe cases, coma or death may occur.

What are the treatment options for inborn errors of metabolism?

Treatment of inborn errors of metabolism usually involves dietary management and/or enzyme replacement therapy.

Dietary management may involve avoiding certain foods or taking vitamin and mineral supplements, while enzyme replacement therapy involves the use of oral medications, injections, or infusions to replace the missing enzymes.

In some cases, such as phenylketonuria (PKU), a diet that limits the intake of certain proteins may prevent further damage.

Other treatments may include genetic counselling, speech therapy, and physical or occupational therapy. Surgery may also be an option for certain conditions.

When should one see a doctor for inborn errors of metabolism?

Anyone with a family history of inborn errors of metabolism should see a doctor. People may also want to consider seeing a doctor if they are experiencing any symptoms associated with the condition, such as fatigue, muscle weakness, confusion, or irritability.

Further, any changes in eating habits, neurological development, or physical growth might be indicators of an inborn error of metabolism and should be discussed with a doctor for further evaluation.

In addition, it is wise for those who have difficulty gaining weight or are overly sensitive to certain foods to seek medical advice from a doctor.

Lastly, if there is unexplained vomiting or diarrhoea, a doctor should be consulted.


Inborn errors of metabolism are a complex set of genetic disorders that can cause serious physical and mental health problems.

To diagnose inborn errors, doctors may utilize a variety of tests, such as blood tests, urine tests, and genetic testing. These tests help identify the specific underlying causes so that the appropriate treatments can be prescribed.

With early diagnosis and proper management, people with inborn errors of metabolism can lead healthy and fulfilling lives.

Request an appointment at Apollo Cradle, Bengaluru - Brookefield. Call 1860-500-1066 to book an appointment.

1. How are inborn errors of metabolism diagnosed?

Inborn errors of metabolism are typically diagnosed through biochemical testing, such as urine and blood tests, to measure levels of metabolites and enzymes, as well as genetic testing to identify which specific mutation is causing the disorder.

2. How can I prevent my children from developing an inborn error of metabolism?

There is no guaranteed way to prevent an inborn error of metabolism; however, parents can take steps to reduce their children's risk by seeking genetic counseling before conception or during pregnancy if they have a family history of such disorders.

3. How do inborn errors of metabolism affect fertility?

Inborn errors of metabolism can cause abnormalities in sperm and egg development, resulting in infertility or reduced fertility.

4. Are there any lifestyle modifications that can help treat or prevent inborn errors of metabolism?

Making lifestyle changes, such as avoiding certain foods or taking supplements, may help some patients manage their symptoms and reduce the risk of complications associated with their condition.

5. Are there any long-term complications associated with inborn errors of metabolism?

Yes, some patients with inborn errors of metabolism may experience long-term complications such as organ damage, cognitive impairment, growth delays, and infertility due to hormonal imbalances caused by the disorder.

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