Familial Mediterranean fever
Familial Mediterranean fever
Familial Mediterranean fever is an inflammatory disorder that causes recurrent fevers and painful inflammation of your abdomen, lungs and joints.
Familial Mediterranean fever (FMF) is an inherited disorder that usually occurs in people of Mediterranean origin — including Sephardic Jews, Arabs, Armenians and Turks. But it may affect any ethnic group.
Familial Mediterranean fever is typically diagnosed during childhood. While there's no cure for this disorder, you may be able to relieve signs and symptoms of familial Mediterranean fever — or even prevent them altogether — by adhering to your treatment.
Signs and symptoms of familial Mediterranean fever usually begin during childhood. In fact, 90 percent of all people initially diagnosed with FMF are younger than 20 years old. The signs and symptoms, which are collectively referred to as attacks, often occur with little warning. Generally, the attacks last two to three days. Typical signs and symptoms of FMF may include:
Attacks usually occur sporadically, although some people report that vigorous exercise or stress provokes their attacks. Symptom-free periods may be as short as a week or as long as months. Between attacks, you'll likely feel normal.
When to see a doctor
See your doctor if you or your child has a sudden fever accompanied by pain in the abdomen, chest and joints so that the doctor can determine the cause.
The cause of familial Mediterranean fever is a gene defect on chromosome 16. The gene, called MEFV, carries the genetic code for a protein called pyrin, which is involved in regulating inflammation. More than 50 different mutations in the MEFV gene have been identified. Although it's not certain exactly how this defect causes familial Mediterranean fever, it may be that people with this mutation don't make pyrin, hence, inflammatory responses aren't regulated and may be quite severe.
Familial Mediterranean fever is inherited as an autosomal recessive trait, meaning that you must inherit the mutated gene from each parent in order to develop the condition.
Autosomal recessive inheritance pattern
To have an autosomal recessive disorder, you inherit two mutated genes, one from each parent. These disorders are usually passed on by two carriers. Their health is rarely affected, but they have one ...
If you're of Mediterranean descent or you have a blood-related relative with familial Mediterranean fever, you're at higher risk of developing the disorder. Men also are more likely to be affected.
Most complications of familial Mediterranean fever result if the condition isn't treated or if it's treated irregularly. Complications may include:
Preparing for your appointment
If you have signs and symptoms of familial Mediterranean fever, you may begin by seeing your family doctor. You may be referred to a doctor who specializes in inflammatory diseases (rheumatologist).
Because appointments can be brief, and because there's often a lot of ground to cover, it's a good idea to arrive prepared. Here's some information to help you get ready for your appointment.
What you can do
Some possible questions you might want to ask your doctor include:
What to expect from your doctor
Tests and diagnosis
No specific test is available to detect familial Mediterranean fever. After ruling out other diseases, your doctor makes a diagnosis based on a combination of the following factors:
Treatments and drugs
While there's no cure for familial Mediterranean fever, there is effective treatment. The most successful treatment for familial Mediterranean fever is a drug called colchicine. This medication is most effective when it's taken to prevent symptoms from occurring, instead of treating symptoms after they occur.
Colchicine is a drug, usually taken as a pill, which reduces inflammation in your body. Some people might need to take just one dose a day, while others might require smaller, more frequent doses to prevent attacks and to lessen side effects, such as diarrhea. People who can predict an impending attack because they feel discomfort or other predictable symptoms before an attack may be able to stop those attacks before they start by taking colchicine.
Reducing the frequency and intensity of symptoms
Lifestyle and home remedies
These tips can help you manage familial Mediterranean fever:
Coping and support
Learning that you or your child has a chronic illness, such as familial Mediterranean fever, can be upsetting and frustrating. Here are some tips that may help you cope:
Last Updated: 2010-07-22
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