PKU; Neonatal phenylketonuria
PKU is a treatable disease. Treatment involves a diet that is extremely low in phenylalanine, particularly when the child is growing. The diet must be strictly followed. This requires close supervision by a registered dietitian or doctor, and cooperation of the parent and child. Those who continue the diet into adulthood have better physical and mental health. “Diet for life” has become the standard recommended by most experts. This is especially important before conception and throughout pregnancy.
Phenylalanine occurs in significant amounts in milk, eggs, and other common foods. The artificial sweetener NutraSweet (aspartame) also contains phenylalanine. Any products containing aspartame should be avoided.
A special infant formula called Lofenalac is made for infants with PKU. It can be used throughout life as a protein source that is extremely low in phenylalanine and balanced for the remaining essential amino acids.
Taking supplements such as fish oil to replace the long chain fatty acids missing from a standard phenylalanine-free diet may help improve neurologic development, including fine motor coordination. Other specific supplements, such as iron or carnitine, may be needed.
The outcome is expected to be very good if the diet is closely followed, starting shortly after the child's birth. If treatment is delayed or the condition remains untreated, brain damage will occur. School functioning may be mildly impaired.
If proteins containing phenylalanine are not avoided, PKU can lead to mental retardation by the end of the first year of life.
Severe mental retardation occurs if the disorder is untreated. ADHD (attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder) appears to be the most common problem seen in those who do not stick to a very low-phenylalanine diet.
Calling your health care provider
Call your health care provider if your infant has not been tested for PKU. This is particularly important if anyone in your family has the disorder.