Inborn Errors Of Metabolism

Inborn errors of metabolism are genetic disorders that affect the body's ability to break down certain substances. They can interfere with the production of energy and lead to a range of health problems, including intellectual disability, physical growth problems, and organ damage. In some cases, they may even be fatal. Most inborn errors of metabolism are caused by mutations in a single gene, leading to a deficiency in enzymes or other proteins that normally metabolise important molecules such as amino acids, lipids, or carbohydrates. Treatment and management usually depend on the specific disorder and can include dietary changes, enzyme replacement therapy, and medication.

Types of Inborn Errors of Metabolism

There are various types of inborn errors in metabolism. These include disorders of amino acid metabolism, such as phenylketonuria; disorders of carbohydrate metabolism, including lactose intolerance and galactosemia; and fatty acid oxidation defects like medium-chain acyl-CoA dehydrogenase deficiency. Other metabolic disorders include urea cycle defects, mitochondrial cytopathies, and peroxisomal biogenesis disorders.

Causes of Inborn Errors of Metabolism

Inborn errors of metabolism are caused by genetic mutations. These mutations can be inherited from a parent or can occur randomly in the individual's genome. Mutations can affect different enzymes or proteins, which then cause metabolic processes to go wrong. Depending on the type of mutation and its severity, this can lead to various medical conditions, such as cystic fibrosis or phenylketonuria. In some cases, a child may even be born with multiple metabolic defects due to mutations in several genes.

Symptoms of Inborn Errors of Metabolism

Inborn errors of metabolism can cause a range of symptoms, from mild to severe. These can include poor feeding, failure to thrive, developmental delay, vomiting and diarrhoea, jaundice (yellowing of the skin and eyes), seizures, difficulty breathing, and an enlarged liver or spleen. Some conditions also cause problems with movement or coordination and can lead to permanent disabilities. In some cases, untreated inborn errors of metabolism can be life-threatening.

When should one see a doctor for Inborn Errors of Metabolism?

Individuals should seek medical advice if they experience any of the possible signs or symptoms associated with inborn errors of metabolism. These can include frequent vomiting, unusual bleeding, lethargy, unusual body odour, poor vision, recurrent infections, unexplained seizures, or a coma. In some cases, there may be no obvious signs or symptoms, and a diagnosis could only be made through genetic testing. As such, it is important to speak to a doctor if you have any doubts about your health or that of your child.

Risk factors for Inborn Errors of Metabolism

Inborn errors of metabolism are genetic disorders caused by mutations in genes involved in metabolism. Risk factors include family history, consanguinity (blood relatives mating), ethnicity, and exposure to certain chemicals or drugs. Siblings of an affected individual have a 25% chance of inheriting the disorder, while those with consanguineous parents have a higher risk. Those belonging to certain ethnic groups may be genetically predisposed to specific metabolic disorders due to shared ancestry. Finally, some metabolic disorders can be triggered by exposure to certain medications or environmental toxins such as lead or mercury.


Inborn errors of metabolism are a common cause of illness in infants and young children, but diagnosing them can be difficult. A combination of medical history, physical examination, laboratory tests, and genetic testing is often necessary to diagnose these metabolic disorders. With proper diagnosis and treatment, however, the prognosis for these metabolic disorders is often excellent. Early detection is essential to providing the best outcomes for children with inborn errors of metabolism. With the right care and support from healthcare professionals, individuals living with these disorders can lead full and healthy lives.

Request an appointment at Apollo Cradle, DELHI-NCR - Moti Nagar. Call 1860-500-1066 to book an appointment.

1. How do genetic mutations lead to inborn errors of metabolism?

Genetic mutations can cause certain enzymes or proteins to be defective, absent, or produced in insufficient quantities, leading to a disruption of normal metabolic functions.

2. How can I find out if I'm at risk for an inborn error of metabolism?

If you have a family history of such disorders or any other indications that you might be at risk for an inborn error of metabolism, it is important to speak with your physician about undergoing genetic testing.

3. How do inborn errors of metabolism manifest?

Inborn errors of metabolism can cause physical and neurological impairments, as well as difficulty gaining weight or even growth delays. Symptoms vary depending on the specific disorder.

4. Is it possible to prevent inborn errors of metabolism?

In some cases, testing during pregnancy can detect certain conditions before birth. However, many disorders cannot currently be prevented or detected prenatally.

Book an Appointment




Pregnancy Calculator