Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease

(Subacute Spongiform Encephalopathy; CJD)

Definition

Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) is a rare, fatal, degenerative brain disorder characterized by rapidly progressive dementia. CJD can be categorized into different subtypes:
  • Sporadic CJD—most common type; usually affects people aged 50 years and older
  • Familial CJD—an inherited form of the disease
  • Iatrogenic CJD—contracted through medical procedures, such as injections of growth hormone, receipt of corneal transplants, or dura mater implants from affected donors
Variant CJD (vCJD) is a different prion disease caused by eating contaminated beef products. This variant form differs from other forms of CJD because it affects younger people and has a longer average time course.

Causes

It is generally believed that CJD is caused by infectious proteins called prions. Prions are normal proteins in the body. If these prions fold up in a different way than normal, they may transform into the protein that causes the illness. The build-up of abnormal prions may be linked to the brain damage associated with CJD.

Risk Factors

People over 50 years old have an increased chance of getting sporadic CJD.Family members with CJD increase your chance of getting familial CJD. Approximately 10% of cases are inherited.Factors that may increase your chance of getting iatrogenic CJD include:
  • Use of cadaveric growth hormone
  • Cornea transplants
  • Dura mater grafts
  • Healthcare workers who work with brain tissues
  • Blood transfusion from someone with CJD

Symptoms

Symptoms may include:
  • Memory lapses
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Impaired judgment
  • Difficulty with speech
  • Loss of coordination
  • Blurred vision
  • Behavior and mood changes
  • Muscle spasms
  • Seizures
  • Loss of mental and physical function

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