Fahr's Disease: A Rare Neurodegenerative Disorder

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Fahr’s Disease: A Comprehensive Review of Pathogenesis, Diagnosis, and Treatment


Fahr’s disease is a rare, inherited neurodegenerative disorder characterized by the presence of symmetrical calcifications in the basal ganglia, thalamus, and dentate nuclei of the cerebellum. These calcifications, known as Fahr’s corpuscles, are composed primarily of calcium phosphate and are typically visible on neuroimaging techniques such as computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).


The exact molecular mechanisms underlying Fahr’s disease are not fully understood, but several genetic mutations have been identified as causative factors. The most common mutation is in the SLC20A2 gene, which encodes for a phosphate cotransporter. Mutations in this gene lead to impaired phosphate transport into the mitochondria, resulting in abnormal calcium metabolism and the formation of Fahr’s corpuscles.

Other genetic mutations that have been associated with Fahr’s disease include mutations in the PDHA1 gene, which encodes for the pyruvate dehydrogenase enzyme; the ME2 gene, which encodes for a malic enzyme; and the SLC39A9 gene, which encodes for a zinc transporter.

Clinical Manifestations

The clinical manifestations of Fahr’s disease can vary considerably depending on the location and severity of the calcifications. In some individuals, the disease may be asymptomatic; however, in others, it can cause a wide range of neurological symptoms, including:

  • Movement disorders: Tremor, rigidity, bradykinesia (slowed movements)
  • Cognitive impairment: Memory loss, confusion, executive dysfunction
  • Psychiatric symptoms: Depression, psychosis, behavioral changes
  • Endocrine abnormalities: Hypothyroidism, hyperprolactinemia
  • Eye abnormalities: Cataracts, optic nerve atrophy
  • Other symptoms: Headache, seizures, sleep disturbances


The diagnosis of Fahr’s disease is based on clinical symptoms, neuroimaging findings, and genetic testing. Neuroimaging typically reveals symmetrical calcifications in the basal ganglia, thalamus, and dentate nuclei. Genetic testing can identify mutations in the causative genes, confirming the diagnosis.

Differential Diagnosis

Fahr’s disease must be differentiated from other conditions that can also cause basal ganglia calcifications, such as:

  • Hypoparathyroidism: A disorder in which the parathyroid glands do not produce enough parathyroid hormone, leading to low calcium and high phosphate levels.
  • Pseudohypoparathyroidism: A genetic disorder in which the body is unable to respond to parathyroid hormone, leading to similar metabolic abnormalities as hypoparathyroidism.
  • Idiopathic basal ganglia calcification: A condition of unknown cause that causes calcifications in the basal ganglia.


There is currently no cure for Fahr’s disease. Treatment focuses on managing symptoms and improving quality of life. Medications may be used to treat movement disorders, cognitive impairment, and psychiatric symptoms. Physical therapy and occupational therapy can help with mobility and daily living activities.

In severe cases, deep brain stimulation (DBS) may be considered to reduce movement disorders. DBS involves implanting electrodes in specific brain areas to deliver electrical impulses that can modulate abnormal brain activity.


The prognosis of Fahr’s disease can vary depending on the severity of the symptoms. Some individuals may have a relatively mild course with minimal neurological deficits, while others may develop more severe complications that can significantly impact their quality of life and shorten their lifespan.


Fahr’s disease is an inherited disorder, typically following an autosomal dominant pattern. This means that an individual who inherits a single mutant copy of the causative gene from either parent has a 50% chance of developing the disease.


Fahr’s disease is rare, with an estimated prevalence of approximately 1-2 cases per million people. It can affect individuals of all ages, but it is most commonly diagnosed in adulthood.

Case Report

Presentation: A 60-year-old female presented with a 2-year history of progressive tremors in her hands and legs. She also reported difficulty walking, memory impairment, and hallucinations.

Examination: Neurological examination revealed rigidity and bradykinesia, as well as cognitive impairment. CT imaging of the brain showed symmetrical calcifications in the basal ganglia, thalamus, and dentate nuclei.

Investigations: Genetic testing identified a mutation in the SLC20A2 gene, confirming the diagnosis of Fahr’s disease.

Treatment: The patient was treated with medications to manage her movement disorders and cognitive impairment. Physical therapy was also initiated to improve her mobility.

Follow-up: Over the next 5 years, the patient’s symptoms gradually worsened. She developed progressive cognitive decline, requiring assistance with daily living activities. The tremors and rigidity in her hands and legs also became more severe.


This case report illustrates the progressive nature of Fahr’s disease and the challenges in managing its symptoms. While there is no cure for the disease, a multidisciplinary approach involving medication, physiotherapy, and support services can help improve quality of life and optimize functionality.


Fahr’s disease is a rare neurodegenerative disorder caused by genetic mutations that disrupt calcium and phosphate metabolism. It can lead to a wide range of neurological symptoms, including movement disorders, cognitive impairment, and psychiatric disturbances. Diagnosis involves neuroimaging and genetic testing. There is currently no cure for the disease, but treatment focuses on symptom management and improving quality of life. Further research is needed to better understand the pathogenesis of Fahr’s disease and develop more effective therapies.

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