Joubert syndrome is a rare, genetic disorder that affects the area of the brain that controls balance and coordination. The disorder is characterized by absence or underdevelopment of a part of the brain called the cerebellar vermis and a malformed brain stem. The most common features include ataxia (lack of muscle control), an abnormal breathing pattern called hypernea, sleep apnea, abnormal eye and tongue movements, and hypotonia. Other malformations such as extra fingers and toes, cleft lip or palate, tongue abnormalities, and seizures (convulsions) may also occur. There may be mild or moderate retardation.
Treatment for Joubert syndrome is symptomatic and supportive. Infant stimulation and physical, occupational, and speech therapy may benefit some patients. Infants with abnormal breathing patterns should be monitored.
The prognosis (likely outcome) for individuals with Joubert syndrome varies. Some patients have a mild form with minimal motor (movement) disability and good mental development, while others may have severe motor disability and moderate mental retardation.