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Classical galactosaemia (C Gal) - heel prick screening

About classical galactosaemia

Classical galactosaemia (C Gal) is an inherited condition. It's caused by the body not having enough of an enzyme used to break down galactose. Galactose is 1 of the 2 sugars that make up lactose in human and cow's milk.

If a baby has C Gal, high levels of galactose build up in its body. Very high levels of galactose are toxic. This can cause liver damage, sepsis and can be life-threatening.

Classical galactosaemia is not an allergy to lactose or milk.

Babies born in Ireland with C Gal

Around 1 in every 16,200 babies born in Ireland may have this condition.

However, it is particularly common among babies born to Irish Traveller parents - around 1 in 450 of these babies could have C Gal. These babies will be offered a special day 1 heel prick screen for C Gal called the Beutler test.

Babies born to Irish Traveller parents should be fed a special galactose-free formula milk until they get their screening results.

Outside of the Irish Traveller community, around 1 in every 36,000 babies may have the condition. If there is a family history, your baby will also be offered the special day 1 heel prick screen for C Gal called the Beutler test.

How heel prick screening can help

If the heel prick suggests your baby may have C Gal, they will be referred to a specialist.

Your baby can then start on a formula milk that does not contain galactose, for example soya milk. Sticking to this diet will prevent them from becoming seriously ill.

page last reviewed: 28/11/2018
next review due: 28/11/2021