A 39 year old patient with cerebellar signs, juvenile cataracts, and dull normal intelligence had cerebrotendinous xanthomatosis without tendon xanthomas, diagnosed previously as Marinesco-Sjoegren syndrome. Cerebrotendinous xanthomatosis was proved by a greatly increased excretion of bile alcohols in the patient's urine. Cerebrotendinous xanthomatosis is a sterol storage disorder due to an autosomal recessive inherited defect of sterol 27-hydroxylase characterised by high cholestanol concentration in multiple tissues. If tendon xanthomas are not present, a diagnosis of cerebrotendinous xanthomatosis will often not be made, unless biochemical tests are performed. The clinical features of cerebrotendinous xanthomas strongly resembles Marinesco-Sjoegren syndrome. Marinesco-Sjoegren syndrome is a autosomal recessive disorder characterised by the triad cerebellar ataxia, congenital cataract, and mental retardation. Although a late onset after the first decade of life favours cerebrotendinous xanthomatosis as the underlying disease, a definite distinction between cerebrotendinous xanthomatosis without tendon xanthomas and Marinesco-Sjoegren syndrome based on clinical presentation may be difficult. It is considered that some patients with Marinesco-Sjoegren syndrome reported in the medical literature had cerebrotendinous xanthomatosis without tendon xanthomas. This is of crucial clinical relevance, because, by contrast with Marinesco-Sjoegren syndrome, treatment for cerebrotendinous xanthomatosis is already available.
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