Symptoms and Treatment for Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease

Jigsaw puzzle, of senior man, falling apart
Symptoms and Treatment for Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease. Andrew Bret Wallis / Getty Images

Type of Dementia

Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) is a very rare dementing disease first identified in the 1920s. Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is believed to be caused by something called proteinaceous prions that can live in the body for years before any signs of the disease become obvious. CJD affects people between the ages of 50 and 70 years.

Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease is a rapid, progressive neurological disease that can affect people and animals.

In animals these prion diseases are also known as Scrapie in sheep, bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) also known as mad cow disease found in cattle. A similar disease is also found in deer.

New variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD)
In 1996, doctors reported a variant of the disease, vCJD. Research since suggests that vCJD is the result of exposure to the agent that causes Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy (BSE) in cattle and unlike CJD strikes young people.

Cause of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD)
Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) appears to have a genetic link or susceptibility in between 5% and 15% of cases. Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) can be passed on through infected brain tissue. BSE is found in people who have been treated with growth hormone, by people who are exposed to poorly sterilized instruments. A tribe in New Guinea that practices cannibalism and eats dead relatives brains also suffer a prion dementing disease that is called Kuru.

Signs and Symptoms of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD)
Fatigue, difficulty sleeping and insomnia, anorexia, progressive deterioration of memory, behavior disturbances, spasms of the body. Depression and psychosis are seen in 10% of cases with delusions and hallucinations.

vCJD signs and symptoms are similar to CJD with early changes in personality, excessive sleepiness.

In later stages, poor balance, pain, increasing problems with balance and walking.
Dementia becomes obvious and leads to a mute, rigid state. Once the signs of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease become apparent its progress is very rapid.

Treatment of Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD)
There is no known cure for Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD). Symptoms are treated to help alleviate distress, pain and to make the person as comfortable as possible.

There are a number of potential drugs that are being investigated and trialed by scientists but none have, as yet, been approved as treatments. None of them offer a cure for this disease.

Prognosis in Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD)
About 90 percent of patients with Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) die within 1 year of the first symptoms. People with Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (vCJD), on average, die within 14 months.

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