Disorders of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA) may commonly present to primary care physicians but go undiagnosed. A 36-year-old man with a 15-year history of psychosis, seizures, and sensorineural hearing loss and a family history of diabetes mellitus and heart disease presented to our hospital without a unifying diagnosis. Physiologic, biochemical, and genetic testing revealed deficient aerobic metabolism, a defect in mitochondrial electron transport, and the presence of an A-to-G point mutation at position 3243 of the mitochondrial leucine–transfer RNA gene, establishing the diagnosis of mitochondrial encephalopathy, lactic acidosis, and strokelike syndrome (MELAS). Diagnosing mtDNA disorders requires a careful integration of clinical signs and symptoms with pedigree analysis and multidisciplinary testing. Diagnosis is important to provide genetic counseling, avoid unnecessary evaluation, and facilitate therapy for symptomatic relief.
Spellberg B, Carroll RM, Robinson E, Brass E. mtDNA Disease in the Primary Care Setting. Arch Intern Med. 2001;161(20):2497–2500. doi:10.1001/archinte.161.20.2497