X-Linked Hypophosphatemia

In: GeneReviews® [Internet]. Seattle (WA): University of Washington, Seattle; 1993.
[updated ].


Clinical characteristics: The phenotypic spectrum of X-linked hypophosphatemia (XLH) ranges from isolated hypophosphatemia to severe lower-extremity bowing. XLH frequently manifests in the first two years of life when lower-extremity bowing becomes evident with the onset of weight bearing; however, it sometimes is not manifest until adulthood, as previously unevaluated short stature. In adults, enthesopathy (calcification of the tendons, ligaments, and joint capsules) associated with joint pain and impaired mobility may be the initial presenting complaint. Persons with XLH are prone to spontaneous dental abscesses; sensorineural hearing loss has also been reported.

Diagnosis/testing: Low serum phosphate concentration and reduced tubular resorption of phosphate corrected for glomerular filtration rate (TmP/GFR) are characteristic. Additionally, the normal physiologic response to hypophosphatemia of an elevation of 1,25 (OH)2 vitamin D is absent. Serum calcium and 25-hydroxy vitamin D are within the normal range; parathyroid hormone is normal to slightly elevated. Alkaline phosphatase is characteristically elevated in children, especially during periods of rapid growth, and usually returns to normal in adulthood with or without treatment. Identification of a hemizygous (in males) or heterozygous (in females) pathogenic variant in PHEX by molecular genetic testing confirms the diagnosis.

Management: Treatment of manifestations: Pain and lower-extremity bowing improve with frequent oral administration of phosphate and high-dose calcitriol. Children are generally treated from the time of diagnosis until long bone growth is complete. The role of pharmacologic treatment in adults is less clear; such treatment is generally reserved for individuals with symptoms such as skeletal pain, upcoming orthopedic surgery, biochemical evidence of osteomalacia with an elevated alkaline phosphatase, or recurrent pseudofractures or stress fractures. Persistent lower-limb bowing and/or torsion resulting in misalignment of the lower extremity may require surgery.

Prevention of primary manifestations: Frequent oral administration of phosphate and high-dose calcitriol to minimize bowing of long bones during growth. Good oral hygiene with flossing, regular dental care, and active strategies to prevent dental abscesses.

Surveillance: For individuals on calcitriol and phosphate therapy:

  1. Quarterly monitoring of serum concentrations of phosphate, calcium, creatinine, alkaline phosphatase, intact parathyroid hormone; and urinary calcium, phosphate, and creatinine for evidence of hyperparathyroidism and increased renal phosphate or calcium excretion

  2. Annual lower-extremity x-rays to assess skeletal response to treatment

  3. Periodic renal ultrasound examination to assess for nephrocalcinosis

  4. Dental follow up twice a year

Agents/circumstances to avoid: Treatment with phosphate without calcitriol because of the increased risk for hyperparathyroidism.

Evaluation of relatives at risk: Molecular genetic testing (if the PHEX pathogenic variant has been identified in the family) or biochemical testing of infants at risk to ensure early treatment for optimal outcome.

Pregnancy management: No data are available on the use of phosphate and calcitriol in pregnant women who have XLH. Most women with XLH who are on active therapy at the time of conception are continued on treatment throughout the pregnancy with vigilant monitoring of urinary calcium-to-creatinine ratios to detect hypercalciuria early in order to modify treatment accordingly.

Genetic counseling: X-linked hypophosphatemia is inherited in an X-linked manner. An affected male passes the pathogenic variant to all his daughters and none of his sons; an affected female passes the pathogenic variant to 50% of her offspring. Offspring who inherit the pathogenic variant will be affected, but because of the great intrafamilial variation, severity cannot be predicted. Prenatal testing for a pregnancy at increased risk is possible if the PHEX pathogenic variant in the family has been identified.

Publication types

  • Review