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The information contained on this page is provided as general health information and is not intended to substitute as medical advice and direction from your physician or health care provider. Please direct any questions related to your health care provider. In an emergency, call 9-1-1 or go to the nearest emergency center.


Waardenburg syndrome

Definition

Waardenburg syndrome is a group of conditions passed down through families. The syndrome involves deafness and pale skin, hair, and eye color.

Alternative Names

Klein-Waardenburg syndrome; Waardenburg-Shah syndrome

Causes

Waardenburg syndrome is most often inherited as an autosomal dominant trait. This means only one parent has to pass on the faulty gene for a child to be affected.

There are four main types of Waardenburg syndrome. The most common are type I and type II.

Type III (Klein-Waardenburg syndrome) and type IV (Waardenburg-Shah syndrome) are rarer.

The multiple types of this syndrome result from defects in different genes. Most people with this disease have a parent with the disease, but the symptoms in the parent can be quite different from those in the child.

Symptoms

Symptoms may include:

  • Cleft lip (rare)
  • Constipation
  • Deafness (more common in type II disease)
  • Extremely pale blue eyes or eye colors that don't match (heterochromia)
  • Pale color skin, hair, and eyes (partial albinism)
  • Difficulty completely straightening joints
  • Possible slight decrease in intellectual function
  • Wide-set eyes (in type I)
  • White patch of hair or early graying of the hair

Less common types of this disease may cause problems with the arms or intestines.

Exams and Tests

Tests may include:

Treatment

There is no specific treatment. Symptoms will be treated as needed. Special diets and medicines to keep the bowel moving are prescribed to those people who have constipation. Hearing should be checked closely.

Outlook (Prognosis)

Once hearing problems are corrected, most people with this syndrome should be able to lead a normal life. Those with rarer forms of the syndrome may have other complications.

Possible Complications

Complications may include:

  • Constipation severe enough to require part of large bowel to be removed
  • Hearing loss
  • Self-esteem problems, or other problems related to appearance
  • Slight decreased intellectual functioning (possible, unusual)

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Genetic counseling may be helpful if you have a family history of Waardenburg syndrome and plan to have children. Call your health care provider for a hearing test if you or your child has deafness or decreased hearing.

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Broad nasal bridgeSense of hearing

References

Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme JW, Schor NF. Defects in metabolism of amino acids. In: Kliegman RM, Stanton BF, St. Geme JW, Schor NF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2016:chap 85.

Milunsky JM. Waardenburg syndrome type I. GeneReviews. 2017. PMID: 20301703 www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20301703.