Please note: This information was current at the time of publication. But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit, the AAFP patient education website.

Information from Your Family Doctor

Tuberous Sclerosis and Your Baby


Am Fam Physician. 2000 Feb 1;61(3):710.

  See related article on tuberous sclerosis.

What is tuberous sclerosis?

Tuberous sclerosis causes growths in the brain, eyes, heart, kidney, skin or lungs. These growths are usually benign (not cancer). The first signs may be seizures and spots on the skin. People in the same family who have tuberous sclerosis may have no learning problems or mild learning problems, or they may have serious learning problems, with seizures that are hard to control.

Tuberous sclerosis isn't common, but it isn't rare either. Up to 40,000 people in the United States have it. The disorder occurs in both sexes and in people of all races and ethnic groups.

How did my child get this disorder?

About half the time, tuberous sclerosis is passed from a parent to a child, or inherited. If one parent has tuberous sclerosis, every child born to that parent has a 50 percent chance of inheriting it.

However, in about half the children who have tuberous sclerosis, the mother and father have no signs of it. It seems that sometimes a normal gene changes (mutates) to the abnormal form that causes tuberous sclerosis.

Doctors have no test to identify a person who has the tuberous sclerosis gene if that person has no signs of it.

If parents who have one child with tuberous sclerosis want to have another child, they need to talk with their family doctor first. The family doctor can refer them to a genetic counselor or medical geneticist who can help them decide what to do.

What are the signs of tuberous sclerosis?

Your doctor may suspect tuberous sclerosis if your baby has a condition called cardiac rhabdomyomas (benign heart tumors) at birth or starts to have seizures, especially a kind of seizure called infantile spasms.

However, your doctor may not be able to tell that your child has tuberous sclerosis until these signs show up:

  • White spots on the skin (called hypopigmented macules) that glow under a special lamp

  • A rash on the face (called facial angiofibromas)

  • A mental disability

Where can I get more information?

For support and information, you can contact this organization:

National Tuberous Sclerosis Association

8181 Professional Place, Suite 110

Landover, MD 20785-2226

Telephone numbers: 1-800-225-6872

Fax number: 1-301-459-0394

E-mail address:

Web site:

This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.


Copyright © 2000 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
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