Clinical features of Friedreich ataxia

J Child Neurol. 2012 Sep;27(9):1133-7. doi: 10.1177/0883073812448230. Epub 2012 Jun 29.


Friedreich ataxia, the most common hereditary ataxia, affects approximately 1 per 29,000 white individuals. In about 98% of these individuals, it is due to homozygosity for a GAA trinucleotide repeat expansion in intron 1 of FXN; in the other 2%, it is due to compound heterozygosity for a GAA expansion and point mutation or deletion. The condition affects multiple sites in the central and peripheral nervous system as well as a number of other organ systems, resulting in multiple signs and symptoms. Onset of this autosomal recessive condition is usually in the first 2 decades of life. Major clinical features include progressive ataxia, absent lower limb reflexes, upgoing plantar responses, and peripheral sensory neuropathy. The main nonneurological sites of morbidity are the heart, resulting in cardiomyopathy, and the pancreas, resulting in diabetes mellitus. In this review, we provide an overview of the clinical features of Friedreich ataxia and discuss differential diagnoses.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiomyopathies / etiology
  • Diagnosis, Differential
  • Friedreich Ataxia / complications
  • Friedreich Ataxia / diagnosis*
  • Friedreich Ataxia / genetics
  • Friedreich Ataxia / therapy*
  • Humans
  • Iron-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • Mutation / genetics
  • Neuroeffector Junction / physiopathology


  • Iron-Binding Proteins
  • frataxin