First Time User? Sign Up Now
For the visually-impaired, please click here.
Home > Health Library > Mitochondrial Diseases
Mitochondria (say "my-tuh-KAWN-dree-uh") are tiny parts of the cells in your body. Mitochondria are often called the powerhouse of a cell, because one of their jobs is to make energy.
Mitochondrial diseases are a group of rare diseases that can be passed down from mothers to their children. The diseases happen when mitochondria don't work the way they should.
These diseases can appear at any age. And they can affect many different areas of the body.
Examples of these diseases include:
The symptoms depend on the type of cells that have damaged mitochondria. Symptoms can vary from person to person.
Mitochondrial disease in brain cells can cause symptoms such as:
When the disease is in muscle cells, the symptoms can include:
In the cells of the ears or eyes, mitochondrial diseases can cause:
Other parts of the body that may be affected include the kidneys, nerves, or liver.
If you or your doctor thinks that you have a mitochondrial disease, your doctor will do a physical exam and medical tests. Your doctor will ask questions about you and your health. He or she will also ask about your family's health to find out if anyone else in your family has similar symptoms.
The kind of medical tests you get will depend on your symptoms and on which parts of your body are affected. Tests that may be done include a muscle biopsy and imaging tests like an MRI. Your doctor may also want you to have a genetic test.
Your doctor may suggest that you see a genetic counselor. These counselors are trained to explain the genetic test and its results, but you make the decision about whether to have the test. They also provide education and support to families with members who have birth defects or genetic conditions like mitochondrial diseases. Genetic counseling can help you understand your risk of having a child with mitochondrial disease.
Treatment usually focuses on relieving your symptoms and helping you feel better. You and your doctor will work together to find the treatment that works best for you. You may need to see a specialist or a team of specialists.
Treatment may include:
Your doctor also may recommend taking certain vitamins and supplements.
Surgery or other procedures may be recommended for physical symptoms like drooping eyelids, cataracts, or hearing loss.
Current as of: April 1, 2019
Author: Healthwise StaffMedical Review: Adam Husney MD - Family MedicineSiobhan M. Dolan MD, MPH - Reproductive Genetics
Current as of:
April 1, 2019
Medical Review:Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine & Siobhan M. Dolan MD, MPH - Reproductive Genetics
To learn more about Healthwise, visit Healthwise.org.
© 1995-2019 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.
Feeling under the weather?
Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.
Get started learning more about your health!
Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups, and pregnancy.
UNC Rockingham Health Care
117 E Kings Hwy
Eden, NC, 27288
Copyright 2020 UNC Health Care. All rights reserved.