Rett Syndrome

Disease database

Rett Syndrome is a rare genetic disorder that primarily affects girls. It is characterized by impaired communication, loss of hand skills, breathing problems, seizures, scoliosis, anxiety, sleep disturbances, and gastrointestinal issues. This article aims to provide valuable insights into Rett Syndrome, its symptoms, causes, and potential treatment options.

Impaired Communication

One of the hallmark features of Rett Syndrome is impaired communication. Children with Rett Syndrome often experience difficulties in expressing themselves verbally. They may have limited speech or lose their ability to speak altogether. However, it is important to note that communication is not limited to verbal language. Alternative forms of communication, such as sign language or augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) devices, can be used to bridge the communication gap.

Loss of Hand Skills

Another significant symptom of Rett Syndrome is the loss of hand skills. Girls with Rett Syndrome may gradually lose their ability to perform tasks that require fine motor skills, such as writing, drawing, or using utensils. This loss of hand skills can be devastating for both the affected individual and their caregivers. Occupational therapy and adaptive devices can help individuals with Rett Syndrome maintain their independence and engage in meaningful activities.

Breathing Problems

Breathing problems are common in individuals with Rett Syndrome. They may experience irregular breathing patterns, such as hyperventilation or breath-holding episodes. These breathing abnormalities can lead to oxygen deprivation and further complications. Regular monitoring of respiratory function and the use of assistive devices, such as ventilators or respiratory aids, may be necessary to manage breathing difficulties.


Seizures are a frequent occurrence in individuals with Rett Syndrome. These seizures can vary in severity and may require medical intervention. Antiepileptic medications are commonly prescribed to control seizures and reduce their frequency. It is crucial for caregivers and healthcare professionals to be aware of the different types of seizures associated with Rett Syndrome and take appropriate measures to ensure the safety and well-being of the affected individual.


Scoliosis, a sideways curvature of the spine, is a common orthopedic complication in individuals with Rett Syndrome. Regular monitoring of spinal health and the use of braces or surgical interventions may be necessary to manage scoliosis. Physical therapy and exercises can also help improve posture and prevent further progression of the curvature.


Anxiety is prevalent in individuals with Rett Syndrome. The constant challenges and limitations imposed by the disorder can contribute to feelings of anxiety and distress. Creating a supportive and structured environment, along with the use of relaxation techniques and counseling, can help individuals with Rett Syndrome manage their anxiety and improve their overall well-being.

Sleep Disturbances

Sleep disturbances are common in individuals with Rett Syndrome. They may experience difficulties falling asleep, staying asleep, or have abnormal sleep patterns. Establishing a consistent bedtime routine, creating a comfortable sleep environment, and addressing any underlying medical issues can help improve sleep quality for individuals with Rett Syndrome.

Gastrointestinal Issues

Gastrointestinal issues, such as constipation and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), are frequently observed in individuals with Rett Syndrome. These issues can cause discomfort and affect overall health. A balanced diet, regular exercise, and appropriate medical interventions, such as medication or dietary modifications, can help manage gastrointestinal symptoms and promote digestive health.

Treatment and Cure

Currently, there is no cure for Rett Syndrome. However, various interventions and therapies can help manage the symptoms and improve the quality of life for individuals with the disorder. The following tips may be beneficial:

  • Early intervention: Early diagnosis and intervention can lead to better outcomes. It is crucial to seek medical attention if you suspect your child may have Rett Syndrome.
  • Multidisciplinary approach: A team of healthcare professionals, including neurologists, geneticists, therapists, and psychologists, can provide comprehensive care and support for individuals with Rett Syndrome.
  • Therapies: Occupational therapy, physical therapy, speech therapy, and behavioral therapy can help individuals with Rett Syndrome develop skills, improve mobility, and enhance communication.
  • Supportive environment: Creating a supportive and inclusive environment at home, school, and in the community can greatly benefit individuals with Rett Syndrome.
  • Research and clinical trials: Stay informed about the latest research and clinical trials focused on Rett Syndrome. Participating in clinical trials can contribute to advancements in treatment options.

In conclusion, Rett Syndrome is a complex disorder that affects various aspects of an individual’s life. While there is no cure, early intervention, multidisciplinary care, and supportive environments can significantly improve the quality of life for individuals with Rett Syndrome. By understanding the symptoms and implementing appropriate interventions, we can provide better support and care for those affected by this rare genetic disorder.

Haroon Rashid, MD
Rate author
Urgent Care Center of Arlington, VA
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