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Sturge-Weber syndrome

Encephalotrigeminal angiomatosis; SWS

Sturge-Weber syndrome (SWS) is a rare disorder that is present at birth. A child with this condition will have a port-wine stain birthmark (usually on the face) and may have nervous system problems.

Images

Sturge-Weber syndrome - soles of feet
Sturge-Weber syndrome - legs
Port wine stain on a child's face

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Causes

In many people, the cause of Sturge-Weber is due to a mutation of the GNAQ gene. This gene affects small blood vessels called capillaries in some but not all body cells. Problems in the capillaries cause the port-wine stains to form.

Sturge-Weber is not thought to be passed down (inherited) through families.

Symptoms

Symptoms of SWS include:

Exams and Tests

The health care provider should check all birthmarks, including a port-wine stain.

Glaucoma may be one sign of the condition.

Tests may include:

Treatment

Treatment is based on the person's signs and symptoms, and may include:

Support Groups

More information and support for people with SWS and their families can be found at:

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Outlook (Prognosis)

SWS is usually not life threatening. The condition does need regular lifelong follow-up. The person's quality of life depends on how well their symptoms (such as seizures) can be prevented or treated.

The person will need to visit an eye doctor (ophthalmologist) at least once a year to treat glaucoma. They also will need to see a neurologist to treat seizures and other nervous system symptoms.

Possible Complications

These complications can occur:

When to Contact a Medical Professional

Seizures, vision problems, paralysis, and changes in alertness or mental state may mean the coverings of the brain are involved. These symptoms should be evaluated right away.

Prevention

There is no known prevention.

Related Information

Glaucoma
Tonometry
Blindness and vision loss
Seizures
Muscle function loss

References

Dinulos JGH. Vascular tumors and malformations. In: Dinulos JGH, ed. Habif's Clinical Dermatology: A Color Guide to Diagnosis and Therapy. 7th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2021:chap 23.

Flemming KD, Brown RD. Epidemiology and natural history of intracranial vascular malformations. In: Winn HR, ed. Youmans and Winn Neurological Surgery. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2023:chap 451.

Islam MP, Roach ES. Neurocutaneous syndromes. In: Jankovic J, Mazziotta JC, Pomeroy SL, Newman NJ, eds. Bradley and Daroff’s Neurology in Clinical Practice. 8th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2022:chap 99.

Sahin M, Ullrich N, Srivastava S, Pinto A. Neurocutaneous syndromes. In: Kliegman RM, St. Geme JW, Blum NJ, Shah SS, Tasker RC, Wilson KM, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 21st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2020:chap 614.

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Review Date: 11/1/2021  

Reviewed By: Anna C. Edens Hurst, MD, MS, Associate Professor in Medical Genetics, The University of Alabama at Birmingham, Birmingham, AL. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, Brenda Conaway, Editorial Director, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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