Mitochondria are energy factories that are found in every cell of the human body. Mitochondrial disease occurs when the mitochondria fail to carry out their primary functions. When they fail, cells lose much of their ability to produce energy and sustain growth. Without properly functioning cells, entire organs can be damaged or shut down completely.
Children are primarily affected by the disease. Their lives can be severely compromised. Common symptoms include: muscle weakness and pain, gastrointestinal disorders, poor growth, cardiac disease, liver disease, diabetes, respiratory problems, seizures, visual/hearing problems, and susceptibility to infection.
There is no cure for Mitochondrial disease. Treatments given to curtail symptoms vary from patient to patient, and there can be many periods of trial and error. Because so little is known about the disease, there are only a few hospitals in the world that offer treatment. As a result, affected families are sometimes forced to travel great distances to seek care. In some cases, entire families have chosen to relocate closer to specialized hospitals in order to minimize travel burdens.