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Reviewed May 2010
What is Cockayne syndrome?
Cockayne syndrome is a rare disorder characterized by short stature and an appearance of premature aging. Features of this disorder include a failure to gain weight and grow at the expected rate (failure to thrive), abnormally small head size (microcephaly), and impaired development of the nervous system. Affected individuals have an extreme sensitivity to sunlight (photosensitivity), and even a small amount of sun exposure can cause a sunburn. Other possible signs and symptoms include hearing loss, eye abnormalities, severe tooth decay, bone abnormalities, and changes in the brain that can be seen on brain scans.
Cockayne syndrome can be divided into subtypes, which are distinguished by the severity and age of onset of symptoms. Classical, or type I, Cockayne syndrome is characterized by an onset of symptoms in early childhood (usually after age 1 year). Type II Cockayne syndrome has much more severe symptoms that are apparent at birth (congenital). Type II Cockayne syndrome is sometimes called cerebro-oculo-facio-skeletal (COFS) syndrome or Pena-Shokeir syndrome type II. Type III Cockayne syndrome has the mildest symptoms of the three types and appears later in childhood.
How common is Cockayne syndrome?
Cockayne syndrome occurs in about 2 per million newborns in the United States and Europe.
What genes are related to Cockayne syndrome?
Cockayne syndrome can result from mutations in either the ERCC6 gene (also known as the CSB gene) or the ERCC8 gene (also known as the CSA gene). These genes provide instructions for making proteins that are involved in repairing damaged DNA. DNA can be damaged by ultraviolet (UV) rays from the sun and by toxic chemicals, radiation, and unstable molecules called free radicals. Cells are usually able to fix DNA damage before it causes problems. However, in people with Cockayne syndrome, DNA damage is not repaired normally. As more abnormalities build up in DNA, cells malfunction and eventually die. The increased cell death likely contributes to the features of Cockayne syndrome, such as growth failure and premature aging.
How do people inherit Cockayne syndrome?
This condition is inherited in an autosomal recessive pattern, which means both copies of the gene in each cell have mutations. The parents of an individual with an autosomal recessive condition each carry one copy of the mutated gene, but they typically do not show signs and symptoms of the condition.
Where can I find information about diagnosis or management of Cockayne syndrome?
These resources address the diagnosis or management of Cockayne syndrome and may include treatment providers.
General information about the diagnosis and management of genetic conditions is available in the Handbook. Read more about genetic testing, particularly the difference between clinical tests and research tests.
To locate a healthcare provider, see How can I find a genetics professional in my area? in the Handbook.
Where can I find additional information about Cockayne syndrome?
You may find the following resources about Cockayne syndrome helpful. These materials are written for the general public.
You may also be interested in these resources, which are designed for healthcare professionals and researchers.
What other names do people use for Cockayne syndrome?
What if I still have specific questions about Cockayne syndrome?
Where can I find general information about genetic conditions?
The Handbook provides basic information about genetics in clear language.
These links provide additional genetics resources that may be useful.
What glossary definitions help with understanding Cockayne syndrome?
atrophy ; autosomal ; autosomal recessive ; cataract ; cell ; congenital ; DNA ; DNA damage ; dwarfism ; failure to thrive ; free radicals ; gene ; kyphoscoliosis ; microcephaly ; nervous system ; nucleotide ; nucleotide excision repair ; photosensitivity ; radiation ; recessive ; sensitivity ; short stature ; stature ; syndrome ; toxic
You may find definitions for these and many other terms in the Genetics Home Reference Glossary.
See also Understanding Medical Terminology.
References (9 links)
The resources on this site should not be used as a substitute for professional medical care or advice. Users seeking information about a personal genetic disease, syndrome, or condition should consult with a qualified healthcare professional. See How can I find a genetics professional in my area? in the Handbook.