How is Fabry disease diagnosed?

Many patients with Fabry disease are initially misdiagnosed as the clinical course is highly variable, with a broad range of possible differential diagnoses1.

Although awareness of Fabry disease is growing amongst medical professionals, on average, the mean time between onset of symptoms and diagnosis is 13.7 years for adult males and 16.3 years for adult females2.

Due to the lack of specificity of symptoms, the diagnosis of Fabry disease is often delayed. Delays of > 20 years are common2.

Early diagnosis is essential to appropriately manage the effects of the disease on the major affected organs3.

Fabry disease can be diagnosed through blood test by checking how well alpha-galactosidase A (α-GalA) is working. Urine will have presence of proteins (proteinuria), or increased levels of albumin (albuminuria). The presence of lyso-Gb3 (another fatty substance that accumulates as a result of α-GalA deficiency) in blood or urine can also detect the presence of the disease4.

In males, levels of α-GalA are predictive of the diagnosis which is further confirmed by genetic analysis of GLA gene4.

In females, levels of α-GalA are less predictive than males, therefore the genetic analysis of GLA gene is usually needed to confirm the disease4.

Genetic analysis of the GLA gene allows for a definite diagnosis. Full DNA sequencing tests may be offered to both men and women with symptoms. It is especially useful for identifying the faulty gene in asymptomatic women5.