To confirm that your baby has Tay-Sachs disease, your doctor will ask you about the child's symptoms and any hereditary family disorders and will order a diagnostic blood test.
The blood test checks the levels of an enzyme called hexosaminidase in the child's blood. The levels are low or absent in Tay-Sachs disease.
While performing a careful eye exam of your child, the doctor may see a cherry-red spot in the back of the child's eyes, which is a sign of the disease. You may need to see a pediatric neurologist and an ophthalmologist for nervous system and eye examinations.
There is no cure for Tay-Sachs disease, but some treatments can help in managing symptoms. The goal of treatment is support and comfort. Supportive treatments include:
- Medication. To reduce your child's symptoms, a number of prescription medications are available, including anti-seizure medications.
Respiratory care. Children who have Tay-Sachs disease are at high risk of lung infections that cause breathing problems and frequently accumulate mucus in their lungs.
Your child may need the mucus using chest physiotherapy (CPT) to help remove mucus from the lungs.
Feeding tubes. Your child may have trouble swallowing, or develop respiratory problems by inhaling food or liquid into the lungs while eating.
To prevent those problems, your doctor may recommend an assistive feeding device such as a gastrostomy tube, which is inserted through your child's nose and goes to your child's stomach. Or, a doctor trained in stomach surgery may surgically insert an esophagogastrostomy tube.
Physical therapy. As the disease progresses, your child may benefit from physical therapy to help keep joints flexible and maintain as much ability to move (range of motion) as possible.
Physical therapy can delay joint stiffness and reduce or delay the loss of function and pain that can result from shortened muscles.
Potential future treatments
Gene therapy or enzyme replacement therapy research may eventually lead to a cure or treatment to slow the progression of Tay-Sachs disease.
Coping and support
Ask your child's doctor to suggest resources and information to help you and your family cope with your child's needs. Look for local support groups to connect you with other families who are sharing similar challenges.
Tay-Sachs disease care at Mayo Clinic
May 16, 2018
- National Library of Medicine. Tay-Sachs disease. Genetics Home Reference. https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/condition/tay-sachs-disease. Accessed Aug. 6, 2017.
- Learning about Tay-Sachs disease. National Human Genome Research Institute. https://www.genome.gov/10001220/. Accessed Aug. 6, 2017.
- Tay-Sachs disease information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Tay-Sachs-DiseaseInformation-Page. Accessed Aug. 6, 2017.
- Riggin EA. Allscripts EPSi. Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. July 26, 2017.