Ataxia with vitamin E deficiency is an autosomal recessive condition associated with a defect in the alpha-tocopherol transfer protein. Clinically it manifests as a progressive ataxia with a phenotype resembling that of Friedreich's ataxia. There is some evidence that progression of neurological symptoms is prevented by vitamin E therapy. A patient is described who was given a clinical diagnosis of Friedreich's ataxia. Molecular genetic analysis showed the absence of the frataxin gene expansion. Subsequent vitamin E assay showed deficiency and a diagnosis of ataxia with vitamin E deficiency was made. It is recommended that all patients with ataxia of unknown cause should have vitamin E deficiency excluded. When a diagnosis of Friedreich's ataxia is considered patients should have frataxin analysis in addition. Further, neurologists should be aware that ataxia with vitamin E deficiency may present as "mutation negative" Friedreich's ataxia.
(J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry 1998;64:368-370)