What is Tuberous Sclerosis?

Tuberous sclerosis (TSC) is a rare genetic disease that causes benign tumors to grow in the brain and on other vital organs such as the kidneys, heart, eyes, lungs, and skin. It usually affects the central nervous system. Three types of brain tumors are associated with TSC: cortical tubers, which generally form on the surface of the brain; subependymal nodules, which form in the walls of the ventricles (the fluid-filled cavities of the brain); and giant-cell astrocytomas, a type of tumor that can block the flow of fluids within the brain.


In addition to the benign tumors that frequently occur in TSC, other common symptoms include seizures, intellectual disability, behavioral problems, and skin abnormalities. TSC may be present at birth, but signs of the disorder can be subtle and full symptoms may take some time to develop. 


There is no cure for TSC, although treatment is available for a number of the symptoms. Antiepileptic drugs such as vigabatrin may be used to control seizures and medications may be prescribed for behavioral problems. Intervention programs, including special schooling and occupational therapy, may benefit individuals with special needs and developmental issues. Surgery, including dermabrasion and laser treatment, may be useful for treatment of skin lesions. Because TSC is a lifelong condition, individuals need to be regularly monitored by a doctor. Due to the many varied symptoms of TSC, care by a clinician experienced with the disorder is recommended.


The prognosis for individuals with TSC depends on the severity of symptoms. Individuals with mild symptoms generally do well and live long productive lives, while individuals with the more severe form may have serious disabilities. In rare cases, seizures, infections, or tumors in vital organs such as the kidneys and brain can lead to severe complications and even death. However, with appropriate medical care, most individuals with the disorder can look forward to normal life expectancy.

1. Tuberous Sclerosis. National Institue of Neurological Disorders and Stroke (NINDS). 2014; http://www.ninds.nih.gov/disorders/tuberous_sclerosis/tuberous_sclerosis.htm. Accessed 6/9/2014.